Syrian troops kill rebels in ambush
Syrian government forces have killed more than 60 rebels in an ambush near Damascus, a blow to opposition fighters confronting a regime offensive in the capital.
The state news agency SANA confirmed the ambush near the Damascus suburb of Adra at dawn, saying "dozens" were killed. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 62 rebels died. It did not report any government casualties.
SANA said the rebels were members of the al Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front.
Syrian troops have been on the offensive in the past few months in an attempt to clear out Damascus suburbs used by opposition fighters to threaten president Bashar Assad's seat of power.
State-run broadcaster Al-Ikhbariya TV aired footage of dead men, some in military uniforms. It said they were killed in an ambush as they were on their way to attack an army post near Damascus.
Mohammed Saeed, an activist near Damascus, said that 65 rebels were on their way from the eastern suburbs of the capital to the nearby area of Qalamoun. He added that the rebels were walking because it is dangerous to drive in the area as it is watched by regime forces.
"The regime forces riddled them with heavy machinegun fire," he said. "It seems that the regime discovered the secret road that the rebels were using."
Syria's crisis started as largely peaceful uprising against Assad's rule in March 2011 but turned into a civil war after opposition supporters took up arms to fight a brutal government crackdown. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the violence.