Syria has again refused to allow aid into the destroyed suburb of Homs amid mounting evidence of human rights abuses, including the torture of victims at a hospital inside the city.

A defiant President Bashar al-Assad said this week he was determined to go on fighting what he called “foreign-backed terrorism”.

“The Syrian people, who have in the past managed to crush foreign plots … have again proven their ability to defend the nation and to build a new Syria through their determination to pursue reforms while confronting foreign-backed terrorism,” he said, according to the state news agency Sana.

State television claimed residents were now slowly returning on foot to Baba Amr.

It showed men, women and children trudging past ruined and bullet-marked buildings. There was also footage of a cramped tunnel which Damascus says was used to smuggle arms.