President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has described Egypt as locked in a battle with jihadists for its existence after the deaths of 31 soldiers yesterday in Sinai.
At least 31 soldiers were killed in two attacks on Friday, the deadliest a bomb blast near the town of El-Arish. The deaths are the military's largest loss of life in decades, the BBC reported.
A three-month state of emergency has been declared in parts of the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt's Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip was closed.
There will be three days of mourning.
In a live national address, Mr Sisi said a huge plot was being waged against Egypt "by external forces".
"This is meant to break up Egypt and the Egyptians ... Egypt is fighting a war of existence."
No group has yet said it carried out the attacks, which came as the army continued an offensive against jihadists in northern Sinai.
The area has become increasingly lawless since President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011.
Militants have stepped up attacks since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the army last year amid massive opposition protests.