BEIRUT — Syrian state media said troops killed scores of al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels in an ambush near the capital, Damascus.
Wednesday’s report by SANA said the rebels, belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, were killed near Oteibah Lake southeast of Damascus.
According to SANA, quoting a military source, 175 people were killed in the operation.
The news outlet published photos showing slain fighters lined in a row along a dirt road.
The attack was apparently the deadliest against the rebels for months.
SANA said an army unit “spotted Al-Nusra Front (jihadist) and Liwa al-Islam (Islamist) terrorists” near Damascus, and “killed 175 of them and wounded several others.”
Saudis, Qataris and Chechens were among the dead, it said.
State television had earlier reported “dozens” killed, mostly non-Syrians, in a “well-organized ambush” following a tip-off.
The army also seized the rebels’ weapons, the broadcaster said, following the regime’s practice of using the term “terrorists” to refer to the armed opposition.
Al-Nusra Front is al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria and is committed to the overthrow of President Bashar Assad and the establishment of an Islamic state.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group with a network of contacts inside Syria, confirmed that dozens were killed in the ambush.
“Dozens of Islamist fighters were killed and wounded in an ambush by loyalist troops, with the help of (Lebanese Shiite group) Hezbollah, near Otaibeh village in the Eastern Ghouta area,” it said.
A government security source said most of the fighters were Jordanians or Saudis, and that they had crossed over into Syria from Jordan earlier the same day.
The source said the ambush took place at around 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) and killed 156 rebels. Another 10 were taken prisoner, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In a live broadcast from the area, Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV station showed dozens of bodies scattered along the unpaved road.
An army colonel told Al-Mayadeen that his troops acted on intelligence and the rebels lost “more than 150 men” in the assault.
The Otaibah area has seen several army ambushes in past months.
Syria’s war has since March 2011 killed more than 140,000 people and forced millions more to flee.p.
Syrian army tanks and armored personnel carriers were seen in the broadcast as were soldiers patrolling on foot.
Otaibah Lake is near the rebel-held area of Eastern Ghouta, which was hit by a massive chemical attack in August which left over a thousand people dead.
That attack precipitated an international crisis, with Western countries threatening action against the Syrian regime.