Sara Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister's wife, has claimed she is a victim of "sexual violence" after anti-government protesters wielding balloons shaped like giant phalluses gathered outside her home in Jerusalem.
In an interview with Israeli broadcaster Channel 12, Mrs Netaynahu said of the protesters: "I certainly feel that I have experienced sexual violence." She added: "I am a battered woman and my children are battered."
Thousands of demonstrators have taken to Israel's streets - and gathered at the Netanyahu residence in Jerusalem - demanding that the prime minister steps down.
Mr Netanyahu is currently on trial for charges of bribery and corruption, while his economic response to the coronavirus pandemic has also been strongly criticised.
In one recent protest outside the Netanyahu residence, protesters carried out what Mrs Netanyahu described as the "march of the balloons," referring to the sexually suggestive props.
However, Hagit Peer, the head of the Israeli women's rights group Naamat, responded to the remarks by accusing Mrs Netanyahu of trivialising violence against women.
"Mrs Netanyahu is not a battered woman. This is a cheapening of the concept and Mrs Netanyahu, who has visited women’s shelters in the past, knows this,” Ms Peer said.
Mrs Netanyahu also says she has received rape threats on social media, as well as threats against her children.
As the pandemic continues, Israel is grappling with severe economic woes and mounting frustration with Mr Netanyahu, who has reacted with scorn to the mass protests.
Despite some initial success, the rate of coronavirus infections in Israel soared to as many as 2,000 cases per day over the summer while around 20 per cent of the population is unemployed as a result of lockdown.
At the most recent major protest against Mr Netanyahu, on Saturday, organisers say that around 32,000 people took part. Similar demonstrations have been held in Tel Aviv and other cities in Israel.
Mr Netanyahu has claimed the protest movement is led by "anarchists" and that local media coverage has blown the issue out of proportion. But there have also been allegations of police violence against the protesters, while in some cases police have used water cannons on demonstrators.