Syrians living in a small town in the centre of the country claim an armoured column of government tanks fired heavy machine guns on them because dozens of soldiers had defected.
Witnesses say soldiers began changing sides three months ago in Rastan, which is about 20 kilometres north of Homs. Activists report an increasing number of army desertions since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya.
Pictures posted on the internet purport to show residents in Homs calling for President Assad to be executed.
Residents in the capital, Damascus, have reported dozens of army defections there too, with soldiers fleeing into farmland nearby. It is the first time defections have been reported around the capital.
The European Union is ready to impose an embargo on Syrian oil imports, according to diplomats in Brussels. Sources there say it could be in place by the end of the week.