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Hit by water cannon, AP’s Balilty captures iconic photo of Israeli protests

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Shelly Lieber, 25, wears a mask representing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as she poses for a photo during a protest outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, July 24, 2020. – AP Photo / Oded Balilty

Oded Balilty, acting chief photographer, Jerusalem, has gained widespread attention in Israel and abroad for his body of work – breaking news images and portraits – depicting Israel’s wave of anti-government protests. His photo of a young man holding an Israeli flag as he is doused by a police water cannon emerged as the most iconic image of this summer of unrest, in which protesters accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of corruption and say he has bungled the country’s response to the coronavirus.

On July 18, protesters were blocking a street when police surprised them with a water cannon. As the crowd ran, another water cannon targeted them from the other side. Balilty himself was hit in the face and stunned for several minutes. After drying out his gear, he lay on the ground to stay out of the line of fire, then noticed the protester holding a flag.

While there were dozens of journalists covering the event, Balilty’s dramatic and evocative photo appeared throughout the Israeli media and on news sites around the world, including The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal. Facebook groups shared the photo, calling it “iconic.”

The photo served as the basis for a July 27 text story about the young protesters leading the demonstrations, including an interview with the young man in the picture. The same day, AP also published a creative series of protesters’ portraits by Balilty that received widespread play.

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Demonstrators pose for photos during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outside his residence in Jerusalem, July 23 and 24, 2020. The wave of colorful and combative demonstrations against Netanyahu and his perceived failure to handle the country’s deepening economic crisis have been characterized by youth. With flags, facemasks, drums, placards and an assortment of props, thousands have been taking to the streets to demand change. – AP Photo / Oded Balilty
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