HEBRON, West Bank – The grandfather of a Palestinian baby who was photographed in a suicide bomber's costume — replete with fake explosives, ammunition belt and red Hamas headband — said Saturday that the disguise was a joke.
Initially denying the baby in the photograph — which was splashed across the front pages of Israeli newspapers and international television networks — was his grandson, Redwan Abu Turki finally admitted he was related to the child.
"This picture was at a rally at the university. The picture was taken just for the fun of it," he told The Associated Press in an interview.
Redwan Abu Turki said his son, Nader Abu Turki, is the baby's father and is wanted by the Israeli army. He said Nader has been on the run since the army searched the family's home last week seeking to arrest him for involvement with the Islamic militant group Hamas.
The army said it found the photograph of the baby in a family album while looking for a current picture of Nader. The army distributed the photograph to the media. Military officials said they also found an assault rifle, grenades and explosives during the sweep of the house.
The picture incensed Israelis, who have been targeted in 71 suicide bombings in the past 21 months. Israeli newspaper headlines read "Terror in Diapers" and "Born to Kill" over the picture of the baby, who appeared to be 12 to 18 months old.
Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan Khatib said it was understandable that Palestinians living under Israeli occupation 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."
Khatib said that he and the Palestinian Authority are against suicide bombings.