Two Marines were killed and three others wounded when they came under fire during house-clearing operations in Fallujah (search), the U.S. military said Friday.

Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said the U.S. troops were ambushed Thursday by terrorists (search) from inside a house as they entered it.

Marines responded with gunfire, killing three rebels hiding inside, Sattler said.

U.S. troops have continued house-to-house clearing operations in the former-rebel stronghold, which came under a massive week-long U.S.-led assault that began Nov. 8. Though most of the major fighting has ended, pockets of insurgent holdouts remain throughout Fallujah.

Sattler said about 50 percent of the houses in the city have already been cleared.

"We will continue to clear out houses till every one is secure. We've taken more and more of their safehouses. They're running out of places to hide," he said.

Sattler vowed that the city 40 miles west of Baghdad (search) will be safe in time for next January's nationwide elections, adding that "We want every Fallujan to vote from their house."