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Photo of baby suicide bomber called 'a joke'

The IDF says it found this photo of a bomb strapped baby in a Palestinian militant's home.  

HEBRON, West Bank (CNN) -- A photo of a Palestinian baby dressed as a suicide bomber that family members say was a joke has further escalated tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Israel Defense Forces released the photo Thursday, saying it was found during a search of a house of a Palestinian militant in Hebron.

The photo, which was shown on Israeli television and published in several newspapers, depicts a Palestinian toddler dressed as a suicide bomber wearing what appears to be a belt laden with explosives.

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The Jerusalem daily Maariv published the photo with the caption: "Terror in Diapers."

Members of the baby's family told a reporter from Britain's Sky News that dressing the baby as a bomber was "just a joke."

"The photograph was taken some time ago at a party when someone dressed up the cutest baby as a suicide bomber," a relative said.

But a top Israeli official condemned the photo.

"The photograph of the baby suicide bomber symbolizes the incitement and hatred which the Palestinian leadership have been using to brainwash an entire generation of Palestinian children who have, unfortunately, taken in this message like mother's milk," said Dore Gold, a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Since January 2002, more than 220 Israeli citizens have been killed in suicide bombings or shootings carried out by Palestinian terrorists.

Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan Khatib accused the Israeli media of using the photo to "further distort" the Palestinian position.

"The Israelis are preventing the world from seeing the atrocities Israel is conducting in Palestine by preventing the media from covering the reality of the Palestinian side," Khatib said.

The IDF refused to disclose the name of the family or allow journalists to travel to Hebron, saying the city was a closed military zone.




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