NICOSIA: Syrian security forces pressed a months-long crackdown on dissent Friday, killing three more people with gunfire as protesters flooded streets in support of a rebel army, a watchdog said.
The latest violence came as an Arab League 1100 GMT deadline for Syria to accept an observers' mission or face sanctions passed with no response from Damascus.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least three people were killed when security forces opened fire on demonstrators at various flashpoints in the south, centre and east of the country.
It said a 19-year-old man was killed in central Homs province when security forces opened fire near a mosque, while another man was shot dead in the southern Daraa province, cradle of eight months of dissent, the Observatory said. The third man was killed in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.
Internet activists had called for a day of massive protests nationwide in support of the Syrian Free Army (SFA) which has stepped up attacks in recent weeks in a bid to topple the regime.
"The free army is the guardian of our peaceful revolution," a statement on the Facebook site Syria Revolution 2011 said.
Like most Fridays since the start of the pro-democracy movement in mid-March, protesters emerged from midday prayers to meet stiff resistance from security forces who bolstered their presence in the main flashpoints.
State television denied there a death in Deir Ezzor as "unfounded" and incitement to cause more bloodshed in Syria.
The official SANA news agency meanwhile reported that two experts were killed trying to defuse a bomb in the restive city of Hama, in central Syria, accusing "armed terrorist groups" of planting the bomb.
The state-run agency, quoting a police source, said three other bombs exploded in Hama, where several security forces were also shot and wounded by gunmen.
State television meanwhile said that on Thursday "a child was killed when a bomb planted by terrorists exploded in Taftanaz" in northwestern Idlib province. It gave no further details
According to the Observatory, huge protests took place across Idlib, mainly in Maaret Noman where demonstrators called for the "fall of the regime."
Protesters also braved a massive security deployment across Homs to take to the streets after the midday prayers, the Observatory said, adding that three people were wounded as gunfire was heard in several parts of the city.
The Local Coordination Committees, another umbrella group of activists, said anti-regime demonstrations in support of the rebel army of Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad took place in the Damascus countryside.
But SANA said massive counter-rallies were held in Damascus and Syria's second city Aleppo, with protesters denouncing Arab League decisions against Syria and vowing to confront "the conspiracy" facing their nation.