FILE PHOTO: US first lady Melania Trump (L) holds the hand of Nechama Rivlin, wife of Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, as they walk near American flags at Rivlin's residence in Jerusalem

Tel Aviv - Israel's first lady Nechama Rivlin, 73, died on Tuesday morning after battling with a respiratory disease for years, the Presidential Residence announced.

She died at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.

Three months ago, Rivlin underwent a lung transplant.

Rivlin suffered from pulmonary fibrosis and required the constant use of a portable oxygen tank, which was attached to her even during official ceremonies she attended with her husband.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "Together with all the citizens of Israel, my wife, Sara, and I express deep sorrow at the passing of the wife of the president, Nehama Rivlin."

"We all prayed for her healing during the recent period in which she fought bravely and with all her might for her life," he added. "We extend our heartfelt condolences to the president and to all his family. May her memory be a blessing."

Rivlin was born in Moshav Herut, an agricultural community in today's central Israel. Her parents, Drora and Mendi, emigrated from the Ukraine and were among the pioneer founders of the community.

In 1971 she married Reuven Rivlin and the couple lived in Jerusalem.

Rivlin had a BSc in Botany and Zoology. As the first lady, she focused her activities on the environment, nature and art, as well children with special needs.

Rivlin leaves behind her husband, three children and several grandchildren.

dpa