Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi has begun a visit to the north of the Sinai a few days after a large scale attack by Ansar Beit al Maqdis militants on an army checkpoint and the outbreak of fierce clashes between the two sides in the lawless and troubled region.
Sisi was seen wearing military attire on his visit as well as talking directly to the troops and reassuring them of the Egyptian people’s faith in them.
The army said 17 of its soldiers and more than 100 militants were killed in the clashes and military operations that followed the ambush by Ansar Beit al Maqdis - which is affiliated to ISIS - in the cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuwaid on Wednesday.
The militant group declared allegiance to ISIS last year. Ansar Beit al Maqdis have previously called for attacks on Egypt’s army, police and judicial officials.
Wednesday's attack represented a major escalation of violence in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip, and was the second major attack in Egypt last week. The country’s top prosecutor Hisham Barakat was also killed on Monday in a car bomb explosion in Cairo.
The attacks raised questions about the present government's ability to tackle militants in the Sinai Peninsula, which have increased since the ouster of deposed former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
The Egyptian government does not differentiate between militants in north Sinai and the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned and declared a terrorist group after the dismissal of Morsi.
The Muslim Brotherhood constantly reaffirms their commitment to peaceful activism, and denies allegations of involvement in any acts of violence.
Separately on Wednesday police forces killed 9 Muslim Brotherhood leaders including Nasr al-Hafi, a former parliamentarian, during a police raid on a flat in western Cairo.
Following this, the Muslim Brotherhood called for a rebellion against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, saying nine of the movement's leaders were murdered in “cold blood” in a Cairo hotel.
An official statement released in English by the Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday called on the Egyptian people to launch a rebellion. "Come out in rebellion and in defense of your country, yourselves and your children," the statement read.