BEIRUT, Lebanon – A battered but still boisterous Syrian opposition movement and a worn out and increasingly isolated government confronted each other again Friday on the last Muslim Sabbath before the emotionally charged holy month of Ramadan.

Massive protests following afternoon prayers erupted across Syria, including some of the largest protests seen so far in the symbolically potent northwestern city of Hama, where thousands were killed in a 1982 government crackdown, and the besieged far eastern Euphrates River city of Deir Alzour.

In Deir Alzour, tens of thousands gathered to call for the international community to take a stand against President Bashar Assad, whose father was responsible for the 1982 bloodshed. “Your silence is killing us,” was the message of protesters posted on social media websites.

At least nine protesters were killed Friday, according to a network of political activists, as Assad’s uniformed and plainclothes gunmen opened fire on demonstrators in Deir Alzour, the coastal city of Lattakia and the southern city of Dara, where peaceful demonstrations first broke out four months ago.

Analysts and activists are gearing up for a potential surge in political violence after the beginning of Ramadan early next week, when pious Muslims abide by a dawn-to-dusk fast and head to mosques twice a day. Activists and diplomats anticipate possibly decisive events during Ramadan.

“I think the month of Ramadan will indeed be a turning point for the Revolution,” said Ammar Abdul-Hamid, a Syrian opposition activist and dissident in the United States.

“During Ramadan, every day will likely be a Friday, and Assad’s security forces, army troops and death squads will have tremendous difficulty dealing with this situation without resorting to extreme violence. This will be a red Ramadan,” Abdul-Hamid said.

During 2009 protests in Iran, demonstrations against the theocratic government calmed during Ramadan only to pick up momentum afterward before being quashed by the same combination of brute force, mass arrests and nonstop propaganda now being employed by Syrian authorities.

The Syrian uprising appears to have been gathering momentum over the last few weeks. Amateur video posted on the Internet showed endless crowds gathered in the main square of the fourth largest city of Hama, chanting, “The people want the downfall of the regime.”

An activist reached by phone in Deir Alzour, who asked that his name not be published, said his city was also already in revolt. “Now I think we will see the city turning into an open sit-in,” he said.