BAGHDAD, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Iraqi government on Saturday declared a 72-hour ceasefire in the city of Fallujah to give a chance for the peaceful efforts to clear the city from al-Qaida militants, according to a government statement.
"The military operations against selected targets of terrorist groups in Fallujah have been halted for 72 hours starting from Friday night until 6:00 p.m. local time (1500 GMT) on Feb. 24," the defense ministry said in a statement.
The statement warned al-Qaida militants of using mortar rounds to bomb troops, civilians, government institutions and hospitals.
The decision came in response to the request from the people of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, and as a gesture of goodwill by the armed forces which came to protect the people of the city from the terrorist organization, the statement added.
It also called on the people of Fallujah, its clerics and tribal leaders to isolate the terrorist groups and expel them from their city to allow residents to return to their homes and normal life.
Anbar province, which includes Fallujah and the provincial capital city of Ramadi, has been the scene of fierce clashes that flared up after Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside Ramadi in late December last year.
Iraq is witnessing its worst violence in recent years. According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, a total of 8,868 Iraqis, including 7,818 civilians and civilian police personnel, were killed in 2013, the highest annual death toll in years.