Justice Minister Hisham al-Shaar said the 672 people who were released included 91 women. He said 588 were freed in the capital, Damascus.
Mr. Shaar added that the release was a bid to “sustain national reconciliations efforts and the homeland’s unity.”
The detainees were set free on the eve of Eid al-Fitr, the feast that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Syrian authorities usually release detainees on major holidays.Continue reading the main story
Tens of thousands of people have been detained since the Syrian war began in March 2011. The conflict has killed about 400,000 people and displaced half the country’s population.
Syrian government forces have been gaining ground across the country under the cover of Russian airstrikes and now control the five largest cities. The push has led to so-called reconciliations in areas around Syria in which opposition fighters either surrendered in exchange for amnesty or moved to rebel-held areas in the north.
Among those released in Damascus was Abdul-al-Rahman Ali, 45, who used to finance opposition fighters.
“I was wrong and every person makes mistakes,” Mr. Ali said. “I have repented and returned to embrace my homeland.”
A woman who identified herself as Umm Akram wiped away her tears as she waited for her son, who had been jailed for more than three years. “I am glad for the release of my son,” she said as she stood with her husband outside the headquarters of Mr. Assad’s ruling Baath Party in Damascus. The woman’s husband said that his son was ready to join the military.
Ibrahim Barakeh, 64, from Al Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, said he had been in jail for 16 months on a charge of funding terrorists. “Thank God for being released,” he said. “I was wrong. I will try to return to Al Ghouta to join my wife and son.”
In northern Syria, the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces released about 200 Islamic State members in Raqqa Province at the request of tribal leaders in the region, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group that is based in Britain and tracks the conflict with the help of contacts in Syria.
The group said that all those released in the town of Tabqa and the city of Raqqa and its suburbs had no blood on their hands and had worked as preachers in similar jobs or as employees in the Islamic State’s civilian institutions.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been making advances inside Raqqa since June 6, under the cover of airstrikes by the American-led coalition, with the aim of liberating the city from the Islamic State.