- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 29, 2002

JERUSALEM The Israeli army distributed a photograph of a wide-eyed Palestinian baby dressed like a suicide bomber complete with a Hamas headband and what appeared to be an explosives belt stirring anger yesterday among Israelis, who accused Palestinians of arming their children with hatred.

The authenticity of the picture, which was splashed across the front pages of Israeli newspapers, and whether the explosives and ammunition were real could not be verified. But the picture incensed Israelis, who have been targeted in 71 suicide bombings that have killed 251 Israelis in the past 21 months.

"Terror in Diapers" read the headline on the front page of the Israeli newspaper Maariv along with the picture of the baby, who appeared to be 12- to 18-months-old. The daily Yediot Ahronot also ran the picture on Page 1, under the headline "Chilling Costume."

Dore Gold, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said the picture "symbolizes the incitement and hatred which the Palestinian leadership has been using to brainwash an entire generation of Palestinian children."

But Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan Khatib insisted it was understandable that Palestinians would teach their children violence toward Israelis.

The army, he said, distributed the picture to "tell the world that the Palestinians are teaching their children how to hate Israel and how to act against Israel and I just want to say this is correct."

He said he is against suicide bombings, which the Palestinian Authority officially condemns, and denied his words were an endorsement of them.

Rather, he said, suicide bombings are an "unfortunate but inevitable" result of the Israeli occupation, noting polls have found a majority of Palestinians support them.

Pictures of older children dressing as suicide bombers are not uncommon, and a boy about 10 was seen at a rally for the militant group Hamas yesterday wearing fake explosives around his waist.

The army also released a collection of video footage it said came from media in the Arab world, including Hezbollah-affiliated Manar TV out of Lebanon, of children as young as about 5 dressed in play explosives.

Still, the picture of such a young baby dressed as a suicide bomber was unusual.

A man who identified himself as the baby's uncle in a television interview with the British Sky News network said the photograph was real.

"It was originally taken during a rally or a graduation party at the university," said the uncle, who was filmed from the back in low light to conceal his identity at his request.

Col. Miri Eisin, a senior army intelligence analyst, said the ammunition strapped to the baby probably was not real.

But she said the picture, which was found Tuesday in the family album of a senior member of Hamas who is wanted by the army, showed Palestinians were educating their children to embrace violence. The army distributed the photo to the media on Thursday.

"I think it's important for the world, as for us, to understand the depth of what we talk about when we say Palestinian reforms," Col. Eisin said, repeating a call by Israeli and U.S. leaders for the Palestinians to reform their leadership.

Col. Eisin said she did not know if the baby was the Hamas activist's son or relative, and said soldiers photographed the picture and left the original in the family album. She said the soldiers had been looking in the album for an up-to-date picture of the wanted Palestinian, whom she refused to identify.

Polls repeatedly have shown the majority of Palestinians support suicide bombings, with the last poll finding more than 60 percent support for such attacks.

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