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Forces loyal to Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad carried out one of the most lethal attacks against opposition forces on Wednesday, killing as many as 175 rebels in an ambush near Damascus.

Conflicting reports make the death toll and the victims’ statuses unclear. State media claimed that it had killed 175 al-Qaeda-linked rebels from the Nusra Front, while an opposition group based in the United Kingdom put the number at 152. That latter group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that the attack was carried out by Lebanese members of Hezbollah.

Opposition members offered much lower statistics, and disputed the account by claiming that most of the dead were civilians trying to escape violence. State-run media depicted bodies piled in fields, and claimed that the casualties hailed from other countries including Saudia Arabia, Chechnya, and Iraq.

From The Washington Post:

About 100 civilians and 75 fighters had set out shortly after midnight, only to run into a wall of fire along one section of their route, said Hadi al-Munajeed, who spoke on the condition that his exact location not be revealed. Two hours later, 24 survivors, most of them badly wounded, returned to the location, he said.

That description contains a mish-mash of details from the aforementioned accounts—175 people, 151 deaths, and a mix of military and civilian casualties.

Assad’s work in maintaining his hold on Damascus comes on the heels of Syria’s proposal for a 100-day extension on the effort to remove all chemical weapons from the country. That initiative has been fraught with delays, mainly due to logistics as well as violence.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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