By Associated Press - Saturday, July 25, 2015

BEIRUT (AP) - Syria’s state-run news agency says President Bashar Assad has granted a general amnesty for army deserters and draft dodgers.

But the decree, issued Saturday by Assad, stipulates that deserters must turn themselves within two months to benefit from the amnesty.

There are thousands of army deserters in and outside Syria, many of whom have gone on to fight with rebels seeking to topple Assad. The overstretched Syrian army suffers manpower shortages as young men flee the country to avoid compulsory military conscription.

Assad has issued similar amnesties for criminals, but has not released any of the thousands of political prisoners believed to be in Syria’s prisons.

More than 220,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict, which started in March 2011.

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