Army targets terrorist hotbeds in central and North Sinai

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A major offensive on militants in Sinai, Nile Delta and the Western Desert region began earlier in the day as the Egyptian military announced in a televised address that a push was being launched against "terrorist" strongholds in the country, after years of militant activity.

"The border guard forces and civilian police are also tightening security procedures at borders and on navigational courses".

Abdel-Aal said that he is closely following the Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018, which aims to thwart all terrorist plots threatening the security of Egypt, the statement added.

In his statement on Friday, the army spokesman called on citizens to "immediately report any elements that threaten the security and stability of the country".

Militant attacks have generally surged since the 2013 military ouster of elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi following mass protests against his divisive one-year rule.

"The Rafah border was closed today due to the security situation in Sinai, we were informed by the Egyptian authorities", said Saleh al-Zaq, head of the civil affairs committee which controls the borders.

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Hasm militant group claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks that killed several policemen since it emerged late 2016 and the group is seen by the police as the armed wing of the now outlawed Brotherhood group.

Rady pointed out that the armed forces and police are the only bodies responsible for issuing statements on the results of the Sinai 2018 Operation, noting that the presidency will release information regarding the current operations if necessary. They later extended to several other provinces including Cairo and started to target the Coptic minority via church bombings and shootings.

In 2014, Islamic State in the Sinai province, formerly known as Ansar Al-Bait Al-Maqdis, pledged its allegiance to the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, hitting out in a series of high profile attacks including the October 2015 downing of Metrojet Flight 9268.

Terrorists even attacked a mosque in North Sinai's Arish city last November, killing at least 310 Muslim worshippers and injuring more than 120 others, marking the deadliest terror attack and the first against a mosque in Egypt's modern history. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the mosque attack though.

The former army chief is seeking re-election next month and success in Sinai will boost his popularity.