File Photo: Egyptian army soldiers stand guard in the restive northern Sinai (Reuters)
A state of emergency was declared in parts of North Sinai after at least 31 members of the Egyptian security forces were killed in two separate attacks in the governorate on Friday.
Twenty-eight soldiers were killed – according to the latest figures reported by local satellite channel CBC – and another 30 injured when a car bomb exploded at the Karm Alkwadis security checkpoint in Sheikh Zuweid.
Just hours later three security personal died when militants opened fire at a checkpoint in nearby Al-Arish.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi declared a state of emergency in the governorate after meeting with the National Defence Council for several hours. The state of emergency will last for three months and will include a daily curfew from 5pm to 7am until further notice.
The attack in Sheikh Zuweid is the deadliest the region has seen in more than two years of heightened unrest.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, an Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist militant group, has previously claimed responsibility for similar attacks in Sinai and in Egypt's mainland.
The injured were transferred to the military and general hospitals in Al-Arish, the biggest city in North Sinai. Al-Arish general hospital called on local residents to donate blood.
Egyptian authorities also closed the Rafah border crossing with Gaza.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the United States condemns the attack and “continues to support the Egyptian government’s efforts to counter the threat of terrorism in Egypt as part of our commitment to the strategic partnership between our two countries.”
Over 40 security personnel have been killed in attacks in the Sinai Peninsula this week, including the two attacks on Friday. A militant insurgency by jihadist groups in the peninsula has become more active since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Hundreds of police and soldiers, as well as militants, have been killed.