Military spokesman Colonel Tamer El-Rafei read the army statement "Communique 1 from the General Command of the Armed Forces" on state TV, which announced the launch of the operation.
Egypt has for years been struggling to contain an Islamic insurgency in the turbulent Sinai region.
The military operation is meant to cover large parts of the Sinai peninsula, as well as parts of the Delta and the Western Desert, the military spokesman said.
Eyewitnesses said they saw armored vehicles and tanks deployed in North Sinai cities of Arish, Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid while blast smoke rose in the sky and communication networks were nearly cut.
He also said that naval forces were deployed to cut off their supply lines and that security has been boosted around the country's border crossings, shipping routes and vital facilities.
In statement No. 2 on the comprehensive anti-terrorism operation, the spokesperson confirmed, "The Air Force is targeting hotbeds and dens of terrorist elements in the north and central Sinai", aired at 11:50 am Cairo local time.
The Sinai Peninsula had always been demilitarised under the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, but as the violence intensified the government responded by ramping up its military presence, with the tacit approval of Israel. Police and security forces have frequently been the target of deadly attacks staged by insurgents in the area.
The terrorists were members of the outlawed Hasm group affiliated with the banned Muslim Brotherhood group of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted by the military in July 2013 in response to mass protests.
According to the statement, the police also announced the highest state of alert to implement the operation as part of efforts for rooting out terrorist elements.
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. Shortly afterward, Sissi gave security forces a three-month deadline to restore stability to northern Sinai and authorized his chief of staff to use "all brute force".
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave the armed forces three months to end "terrorism" after militants killed more than 350 people at a mosque in North Sinai in November.
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