The influential spiritual leader of Israel's Sephardic Jewish community and the ultra-Orthodox Shas party has died at a Jerusalem hospital, a spokesman said.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, 93, underwent heart surgery at Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital on September 23 where he had remained since then, with doctors saying just days ago his condition had improved.

But late on Sunday, the hospital said his condition had suddenly worsened, with medics confirming it as critical on Monday.

"After a long struggle, the rabbi died just a few moments ago," the hospital spokesman told public radio on Monday.

Yosef, whose son Yitzhak Yosef was elected chief rabbi of Israel's Sephardic Jews in June, a post he himself had previously held, had been in and out of hospital for months.

He wielded enormous influence among Israeli Jews of Middle Eastern and North African ancestry, and had frequently been a kingmaker in the country's fickle coalition politics.

Shas was a member of successive governing coalitions before going into opposition after the last general election in January.

Source: Agencies