Nicosia (Cyprus):  Syrian security forces cracking down on dissent killed 13 people, including five boys in the flashpoint central province of Homs, a rights group has said.

 Four boys -- aged 10, 11, 13 and 15 – were "indiscriminately" gunned down by forces manning a checkpoint in the Hula area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement received in Nicosia on Tuesday.

Their deaths were also reported by the Local Coordination Committees, a group of activists that organises anti-regime protests, which listed their names.

A fifth boy, aged six, was killed by security force gunfire in Homs city, along with three other people, including a mentally ill man who was shot in the restive Al-Khalidiyehm neighbourhood, the Britain-based Observatory said.

A man was also shot by security forces in the Homs town of Talbisseh, and a deserter was killed in the town of Qusayr in the province when regular forces opened fire on him, the watchdog said.

Three brothers were killed in Idlib, near the Turkish border, when security forces fired on their car, the group said, quoting an activist in the northwestern city.

At least five people were wounded when security forces opened fire in the Qusur neighbourhood of Homs on Tuesday, and 23 were arrested in raids in other parts of the city, the Observatory said.

In Maaret Numan, north of Damascus, seven people were arrested and two wounded by gunfire when security forces crushed an anti-regime protest.