The British television network Sky News interviewed a man who said he was the baby's uncle. The man said the picture — which appeared in Israeli newspapers Friday — was authentic. Col. Miri Eisin, a senior intelligence analyst for the army, said the ammunition probably was not real.
"The picture was originally taken during a rally or a graduation party at the university," the baby's uncle, who wasn't identified, said. "There were TV stations there, photographers, and I think the picture was circulated after it was published by these agencies or over the Internet."
Sky News filmed him from the back in low light to conceal his identity at his request.
Eisin said the picture was found Tuesday in the family album of a senior member of Hamas who is wanted by the army during a search of his home in the West Bank city of Hebron. She said she did not know if the baby — who appeared to be about 12 to 18 months old — was the Hamas activist's son or relative.
She refused to identify the wanted man. Eisin said soldiers photographed the picture and left the original in the family album. She said the soldiers had been looking in the family album for an up-to-date picture of the wanted Palestinian.
Pictures of older children dressing up as suicide bombers are not uncommon.
At a Hamas rally in the Gaza Strip on Friday, a boy about 10 was seen wearing fake explosives around his waist. But the picture of the baby was unusual and incensed Israelis who have seen 71 suicide bombings in the past 21 months. Many of the bombings have been claimed by Hamas.
"Terror in Diapers" was splashed across the front page of the Israeli newspaper Maariv along with the picture. The daily Yediot Ahronot also carried the picture on the front page under the headline, "Chilling Costume."
Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan Khatib said the picture wasn't surprising and that it was understandable Palestinians would teach their children violence toward Israelis. Khatib, former director of the Palestinian polling and research group, the Jerusalem Media Communications Center, noted the most recent polls have shown more than 60 percent of Palestinians support suicide bombings.
"It doesn't surprise me ... I know exactly the mentality of the Palestinian people and I know exactly the way they think," Khatib told The Associated Press.
The Israeli 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 denied his words were an endorsement of suicide bombings — which the Palestinian Authority officially condemns — saying he is against them, but that they are "an unfortunate but inevitable outcome of the Israeli atrocities."
"The Israelis and no one else should expect the Palestinians ... to teach their children something else, especially since the Israeli army is especially good at killing children," Khatib added.
Eisin said the picture shows how deep the need is for Palestinian reform: "The idea that they can educate to such a thing is just part of the ongoing deterioration."
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 who have unfortunately taken in this message like mother's milk."