Atleast 11 civilians were killed and many wounded when Syrian forces led an attack in a widening military push into central Syria to cut down protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday, a Reuters report said.

Heavy machineguns were fired by tanks supported by troops, in the towns of Talbiseh and Rastan and several villages near the city of Homs, residents said.

Soldiers are now all over Talbiseh. They are breaking into houses and arresting people, one resident in the town of 60,000 said in a telephone interview with Reuters, while the sound of bullets echoed in the background.

The official state news agency said 4 members of the security forces were killed in Talbiseh while chasing armed terrorist groups... to detain them and present them to justice.

The killings occurred in and around the towns of Talbiseh and Rastan in rural Homs, human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouna said by telephone from Damascus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain, said earlier it had the names of 8 civilians killed.

They are the latest population centers to come under army assault since a military crackdown crushed dissent against Assad's autocratic rule began at the end of last month in southern Syria, the cradle of the 10-week uprising.

Talbiseh is located 10 km (6 miles) north of Homs is Syria's third largest city, where tanks shelled a main neighborhood earlier this month. 

Syrian Troops have been occupying the main square in Homs to prevent history from repeating like when tens of thousands demonstrated in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen to press for reform, however, verification of reports at this point in time is difficult with government barring much of international media soon after the unrest started in May.

Thousands of protesters in Rastan on Friday demanded the removal of Assad in one of the largest demonstrations in the region since the uprising against the government erupted in southern Syria on March 18. Rastan, a relatively prosperous town in an agricultural region, is on the main northern highway from Damascus to Syria's second city Aleppo.

A lawyer said Internet, water, electricity, land lines and most mobile telephone links had been cut, a step commonly used by the military before they storm urban centers, the report stated.