BEIRUT, Lebanon — Hundreds of thousands of Syrians mounted the largest protests Friday since the country's uprising began more than four months ago, pouring into areas where the government crackdown has been the most intense in a sign that security forces cannot break the revolt.
Syrian authorities fired on the crowds, killing 27 and wounding more than 100, activists said.
In a significant show of the uprising's strength, thousands turned out in the capital, Damascus, which had seen only scattered protests. Until now, much of the dissent against President Bashar Assad has been in impoverished, remote areas.
"This is the heart of the regime," said David Schenker, director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "So I think if these protests (in Damascus) continue and gain strength, it will be the beginning of the end of the regime."
The protests stretched from Damascus and its suburbs to Hasakeh and Idlib provinces in the north, Daraa in the south and Latakia on the coast. Thousands converged on the flash-point cities of Homs and Hama in central Syria, among other areas across the nation of 22 million.
Beatings in Jordan: Riot police officers wielding wooden clubs broke up a peaceful demonstration near a square in Amman on Friday, beating protesters and journalists. The episode was a sign of rising tension over the slow pace of political reform in the kingdom. The response of the security forces reflected a fear that the protests, which have spread to other parts of the country, will continue to grow.
New protests in Yemen: Yemenis took to the streets Friday in dueling pro- and anti-government demonstrations, spurred by days of reports that embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh could return from medical treatment in Saudi Arabia next week. But by day's end, a ruling party official had quashed those rumors, saying that Saleh wouldn't return until his doctors gave the okay. At least 10 Yemenis were killed in Taiz, the second-largest city, in ongoing clashes.
Egyptians rally: Thousands of Egyptians, increasingly impatient with their interim military rulers, rallied Friday in the nation's two largest cities, demanding trials for police officers suspected of killing hundreds of activists in the uprising that brought down Hosni Mubarak. The protests in Cairo and Alexandria were billed as the "Friday of Last Warning."
Information from the Associated Press, the New York Times and McClatchy Newspapers was used in this report.