CAIRO - Egypt’s president said Saturday the situation in the restive Sinai Peninsula, where dozens of soldiers, jihadists and civilians have been killed this week in yet more violence, is “totally stable”.

Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was speaking during an unannounced visit to the Sinai, dressed again in military fatigues, to rally troops following a wave of attacks there by Islamic State group jihadists. The army, police and even officials have regularly come under fire, not only in the Sinai but also in the capital since then army chief Sisi ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi two years ago.

The jihadists say they are acting in response to the bloody repression launched by the authorities after Morsi’s overthrow, which has seen at least 1,400 people killed and thousands more jailed. Most of the attacks on the security forces are claimed by a group calling itself the “Sinai Province”. Formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, it changed its name when it pledged allegiance to IS last November.

In remarks broadcast on television, Sisi said: “To say that everything is under control is not enough. The situation is totally stable.” He was speaking from an army base at an undisclosed location in the Sinai, where he was also shown inspecting captured weapons. The army has said 17 soldiers and 100 militants were killed on Wednesday, but medical and security officials said the death toll was at least 70 people — mostly soldiers — as well as dozens of jihadists.

“I have come to salute the heroes of the armed forces and to express to them my recognition,” he was earlier quoted by the army’s spokesman as saying. “We are still recovering the bodies of terrorists from the latest attack,” Sisi said. The president said the purpose of Wednesday’s jihadist attacks was to mark the second anniversary of Morsi’s ouster by “announcing the establishment of an Islamic province in Sinai”, but that “plot was foiled”.

Sisi, who has pledged to eliminate the militants, was faced with more deadly violence on Saturday, but said the theatre of operations was miniscule in comparison with the size of the Sinai. “Sinai is 60,000 square kilometres (but) Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid and El-Arish form less than 5 percent of its area,” he said.

, referring to deadly incidents on Saturday.

In one, a woman and two children died when a shell slammed into a house in Sheikh Zuweid. It was not immediately clear who fired the shell, which also seriously wounded another woman and a teenage girl.

Separately, a roadside bomb targeting police and army vehicles killed a five-year-old child in the town of Rafah on the border with the Gaza Strip. Three other children and a woman were wounded. In his speech, Sisi said he saluted “every home, every mother whose child has died a martyr or been wounded for Egypt”. He also criticised the media coverage of Wednesday’s attacks, saying it presented “an unreal image about Egypt, its stability and security. The purpose was to affect the will of the Egyptian people.” Meanwhile, the army spokesman posted on his Facebook page several videos of an aerial bombing of militant positions titled “Strikes of vengeance against the rats of terror”.