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Saturday, 29 June, 2002, 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
Baby bomber photo 'just fun'
Israelis have been deeply shocked by the image
A man reported to be the grandfather of the Palestinian infant shown in a photograph dressed up as suicide bomber has described the picture as "just fun".

The picture was at a rally at the university... [it] was taken just for the fun of it

Redwan Abu Turki, infants grandfather
The Israeli army released the picture on Thursday, saying it was found during an incursion in the West Bank town of Hebron.

There was no independent confirmation of the authenticity of the photograph, though an interview carried out by the Associated Press (AP) news agency with a Redwan Abu Turki, a man who says he is the child's grandfather, appears to confirm that the picture was not a fake.

Palestinians are feeding the hatred of Jews and Israelis to their children at the earliest possible age

David Baker, Israeli spokesman
The image was taken at face value in Israel where it is seen as another example of young Palestinians being incited to hate Israelis.

It is not unusual for Palestinian children to dress up as militants brandishing toy guns or suicide bombers, but the "baby bomber" photograph has provoked widespread concern in Israel.

House search

The army says the picture was found in a family album during a search of a house belonging to an alleged Hamas militant.

The army says the soldiers were looking for a current picture of Nader Abu Turki, the wanted man.

Palestinian children in fancy dress
The militants are heroes for many Palestinian children

He has been on the run since Israeli forces searched his home last week, AP reports.

"The picture was at a rally at the university. The picture was taken just for the fun of it," Redwan Abu Turki told AP.

The picture shows a boy, about 18 months old, standing wide-eyed in a baby suit.

Red wires are strapped to his waist, which is clad in a pretend explosives belt, and across his head is tied a red bandana of the extremist Islamic group, Hamas.

Feeding hatred

David Baker, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said on Friday the picture was symptomatic of what he regarded as anti-Jewish indoctrination.

It is a strange heroism, but at the same time it is part of the distortion that results from ongoing victimisation, incursions, targeting civilians, a whole captive Palestinian population

Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian legislator
Palestinian reaction varied from cynicism to despair.

"This is cheap Israeli propaganda," said Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo. "They are using this photo to justify Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people and to go on with their occupation of the Palestinian territories."

But Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi described the photo as a "painful image" that comes out of the "victimisation" of Palestinians.

Support for bombers

Hamas has been known to organise public rallies in which young children stage mock-ups of famous attacks against Israel.

Some recent opinion polls conducted in Palestinian areas show a majority of people favour suicide bombings against Israeli civilians as a tactic to liberate land occupied by Israel.

But recently a group of Palestinian intellectuals took out an advertisement in Palestinian newspapers condemning suicide attacks as counter-productive, but their call has been widely ignored.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is accused by Israel of backing suicide bombings, but he has repeatedly condemned attacks inside Israel.

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See also:

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