The European Union also turned the heat on the Syrian regime, warning that its legitimacy was undermined by a brutal crackdown and imposing sanctions on three of its Iranian military allies.
The crackdown on dissent has sent nearly 12,000 Syrians fleeing to safety in neighbouring Turkey, prompting concerns from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who warned of the risk of a regional escalation.
In response to Facebook calls, thousands of protesters emerged from mosques in major centres afternoon to demand that Assad's regime go, activists said.
"Bashar is no longer my president and his government no longer represents me," was the message posted on the page of the Facebook group Syrian Revolution 2011, one of the motors of the protests.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other rights activists at least nine people were killed when security forces opened fire to disperse demonstrations in Damascus, the town of Kiswah south of the capital, and the central city of Homs.
Demonstrations rocked many Syrian cities, including the eastern oil hub of Deir Ezzor where 30,000 protesters filled the streets, while thousands demonstrated in neighbouring Median, Abdel Rahman said.
The official SANA news agency reported that "several members of the security forces were hit by gunfire in Kiswah." Syrian rights groups say that more than 1,300 people have been killed while 10,000 have been arrested in the regime's brutal crackdown against dissent since the protests -- now in their fourth month -- erupted. AFP