El-arish: An Egyptian military official says troops and tanks backed by helicopter gunships are sweeping through villages in the northern Sinai peninsula near the border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip, on the third day of a major offensive against suspected Islamic extremists.
At least 20 suspects were killed and 20 arrested in the previous two days.
The official says helicopters struck hideouts of al-Qaida-inspired militants early today in the southern town of Rafah.
He said that along with those killed and arrested, a number of militants fled to coastal villages, while others tried to enter Gaza through underground tunnels.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.
Militant attacks in northern Sinai spiked after ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi on July 3.