Hundreds of thousands people have gathered in Jerusalem to attend the funeral of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Sephardic Jews.

About 400,000 mourners converged from all around the country to pay tribute to Yosef, who died aged 93.

A massive funeral procession is to accompany the body from the Porat Yosef yeshiva in Geula to the Sanhedria cemetery.

Israel Channel 2 television estimated it is the largest funeral procession ever seen in Israel and tight security measures have been put in place.

In a televised appeal police Commander Yochanon Danino urged mourners who had not yet arrived in Jerusalem to stay away, as a disaster could be sparked by the huge crowd marching through the city's narrow streets.

"The funeral could end in a tragedy," Danino said.

Among the mourners are Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"A few hours ago I went to the hospital to say goodbye to my teacher, my rabbi, my friend Rabbi Ovadia Yosef," Peres said.

"It was a difficult time. Tears filled my eyes and my throat was choked with emotion. I held his hand which was still warm and kissed his forehead. When I pressed his hand I felt I was touching history and when I kissed his head it was as though I kissed the very greatness of Israel."