Syrian President Bashar Assad
Syrian President Bashar Assad Israel news photo: Flash 90

Syrian President Bashar Assad issued a mass pardon Tuesday for all political prisoners arrested prior to October 23, 2012, Syrian media outlets report. In doing so, he met one of the major demands rebel groups have made in advance of negotiations.

The prisoners set to be released include members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamist group is banned in Syria, as it formerly was in Egypt.

The move comes as UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is in the country attempting to get both sides to agree to a ceasefire. Political analysts said Assad’s declaration could be highly significant to the ceasefire effort, but called to wait and see if the government will follow through.

At the same time, Assad’s troops continued to carry out raids and airstrikes in rebel strongholds in Aleppo and in suburbs of Damascus.

CNN Turkey reported that a Syrian shell hit a health center in Turkey’s Hatay province. There were no casualties.

Turkey and Syria have traded fire in the past as Syrian shells hit Turkish territory.