Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has visited the former rebel stronghold of Homs, the scene of fierce fighting with government forces that left hundreds dead.
The siege of the city, which also claimed the lives of photographer Remi Ochlik and Times journalist Marie Colvin, lasted for more than a month.
Assad appeared in the Baba Amr district to tell civilians in the neighbourhood that the ruined city would return to its pre-war state.
According to AFP, while surrounded by supportive crowds, the president talked of regeneration and was overheard saying: "We have to come up with a schedule in order to inform people when they can return to normal life."
President Assad appeared in Homs to witness the destruction
The country's state news agency, SANA, quoted Assad as saying that there was no choice but to shell the city, adding that: "The state did not fail in its duty to protect its citizens."
"The state gave those who had strayed from the right path every chance... to surrender their weapons but they rejected them and escalated their terrorism.
"So we had to act to bring back peace and security and to impose the law."
Baba Amr was finally retaken by forces loyal to Assad on 1 March.
The president is facing a revolt that engulfed the country in March last year and has recently "accepted" a six-point blueprint for ending violence in the country proposed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.