DAMASCUS (AFP) - At least 10 people were shot dead as thousands of Syrians took to the streets to rally against President Bashar al-Assad on the first Friday of Ramazan in support of the protest hub of Hama, activists said. "Seven people were killed in Irbin, another in Maadamiya (both towns near the capital) and two in Homs," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP by telephone, adding many others were wounded by gunfire. Meanwhile, state news agency SANA said two members of the security forces were killed and eight wounded in an ambush on a road in the Idlib region of northwest Syria, near the Turkish border. And gunmen on an apartment block rooftop in Duma, near Damascus, shot and wounded two other members of the security forces, it said, while assailants also opened fire in Homs. Communications were completely cut off as the army stepped up an operation to crush dissent in Hama, north of Damascus, where security forces killed at least 30 civilians and wounded dozens more earlier in the week. "Thousands of demonstrators marched in Deir Ezzor, Daraa and Qamishli in support of the city of Hama despite the extreme heat," said Abdel Karim Rihawi, who heads the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights. He said they numbered 30,000 in Deir Ezzor alone. "More than 12,000 people" also marched in Bench, in Idlib province, "to demand the fall of the regime and express their support for Hama and Deir Ezzor," according to Abdel Rahman. "Hundreds of people came out of the Al-Mans Uri mosque in Jablah, chanting 'God is with us,'" he told AFP. The call for Friday's protests came from activists on Facebook group The Syrian Revolution 2011, a driving force behind the demonstrations calling for greater freedoms since mid-March. The Assad regime has sought to crush the democracy movement with brutal force, killing more than 1,649 civilians and arresting thousands of dissenters, according to an updated list from the Syrian Observatory. It said 389 members of the security forces had also been killed. The latest crackdown has centred on Hama, where at least 30 people were killed on Wednesday by tanks shelling the city centre. As the city remained cut off on Friday, the military continued an operation to combat what Assad's regime calls "armed terrorist gangs" responsible for the deadly unrest. State media reported that army units were removing "roadblocks set up by terrorist groups that have blocked roads and damaged public and private property, including police stations, using various weapons." According to Abdel Rahman, more than 1,000 families have fled Hama. The crackdown on Hama has prompted harsh words from Washington and Moscow, with Russia hinting at a possible change of heart after stonewalling firm UN action against Syria, its ally since Soviet times. The White House said the deadly crackdown has put Syria and the Middle East on a "very dangerous path," as Washington extended a raft of sanctions to include a businessman close to Assad and his family. President Barack Obama's administration appeared to be moving toward a first direct call for Assad to go, a step it has so far resisted, following the escalation of violence in Hama. Meanwhile, activists and analysts have dismissed as a ploy a new law allowing the creation of political parties alongside the Baath party, as decreed by Assad on Thursday. The decree came after the UN Security Council condemned the crackdown and said those responsible should be held accountable, in a non-binding statement rather than a resolution. Western powers had hoped for stronger action but were rebuffed by veto-wielding members Russia and China, who feared doing so would pave the way for another military intervention like the one in Libya. But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev spoke forcefully about the situation on Thursday and called on Assad to "carry out urgent reforms" warning otherwise "a sad fate awaits him and in the end we will have to take some decisions." Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Friday that developments in Syria were "unacceptable." "Operations with heavy arms and tanks in densely populated residential areas like Hama are not legitimate at all," he was quoted by Anatolia news agency as saying. And Kuwait urged a halt to the crackdown, expressing its "extreme pain" and calling for dialogue and a political solution to allow for "true reforms that meet the demands of the Syrian people".