Syrian government forces killed at least 12 people and wounded 100 on Tuesday when they unleashed a heavy artillery barrage on a rebel-held district of the city of Homs, activists said.

The Free Syrian Army is not letting the army enter Baba Amro. It responded this morning by 130 mm artillery that hit the neighbourhood at random, activist Nader al-Husseini told Reuters from the district.

Several shells are falling each minute, he added.

Two children were among the victims, he said. The report could not be independently confirmed.

Government forces backed by armour and under the control of Alawite officers, from the same minority sect as President Bashar al-Assad, have been advancing on Baba Amro, a Muslim Sunni neighbourhood, since the offensive on Homs began on Feb 3.

Tanks are now deployed at the Inshaat district opposite Baba Amro, according to opposition sources.

About 60 percent of Baba Amro's 100,000 population are estimated to have fled. The district is connected with several villages that have become part of the urban sprawl around the mixed city of one million, which has a large 30 to 40 percent Alawite minority.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Angus MacSwan)