The Syrian regime on Saturday released hundreds of detainees including some who backed the insurgency against Bashar Assad’s regime on the eve of a major Muslim holiday.
Hours after the release, a car bomb exploded in an opposition-held northern town near the border with Turkey killing and wounding dozens of people, according to the opposition Civil Defense in Idlib, also known as the White Helmets, and the Britain-based opposition monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The explosion at a market in Dana, killed at least 10 people, including children, and wounded 30, according to the Observatory. The blast came hours after an explosion in the town killed two people and wounded others.
Explosions in opposition-held parts of northern Syria are not uncommon and similar blasts have killed scores over the past months.
Regime Justice Minister Hisham al-Shaar told reporters that the 672 people released on Saturday included 91 women. He said of those released, 588 were freed in the capital Damascus, Assad's seat of power.
Al-Shaar added that the release came in a bid to "sustain national reconciliations efforts and the homeland's unity."
The release comes on the eve of Eid el-Fitr, the feast that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Syrian authorities usually release detainees on major holidays.
Tens of thousands of people have been detained since Syria's crisis began in March 2011. The conflict has killed some 400,000 people and displaced half the country's population.
Syrian regime forces have been gaining ground around 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 northern Syria.
Among those released in Damascus was 45-year-old Abdul-al-Rahman Ali who used to finance opposition fighters.
"I was wrong"
"I was wrong and every person makes mistakes. I have repented and returned to embrace my homeland," he said.
A woman who identified herself as Um 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 Assad's ruling Baath party in Damascus where part of the release occurred.
The woman's husband stressed that his son is ready to join the military service.
Ibrahim Barakeh, 64, from al-Ghouta in the countryside of Damascus, said he has been in jail for 16 months on a change of funding terrorists. "Thank God for being released. I was wrong. I will try to return to al-Ghouta to join my wife and son," he added referring to a suburb of Damascus.
Daesh militants released
In northern Syria, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces released some 200 members of Daesh in Raqqa province at the request of tribal leaders in the region, according to the Observatory.
The Observatory said all those released in the town of Tabqa and the city of Raqqa and its suburbs had no blood on their hands and had jobs with Daesh such as preachers or employees in the terrorist group civilian institutions.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes the YPG, have been marching inside Raqqa since June 6, under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition, with the aim of liberating the Islamic State's de facto capital of the extremists.
The SDF is a coalition of forces, but dominated by the YPG. Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group aligned with the PKK which has fought a bloody campaign in southeast Turkey since 1984.
The Raqqa campaign has been the source of tension in ties between the US and Turkey, which lobbied Washington to abandon its support for the YPG.
The YPG has been the main partner for the US in its campaign in Syria against Daesh, which is also the target of separate campaigns waged by the Russian-backed Syrian regime and Free Syrian Army rebel groups, the latter backed by Turkey.