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Behind Syrian rebel lines

Machine guns operated by motorcycle brakes? Get a glimpse at the rebels fighting against Assad's forces in Syria's mountainous Jabal al-Zawiya area.

An NBC News team traveled to Syria in early July to report on the conflict there. To learn more about the rebels struggle against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, they followed a group of men who call themselves the "Free Syrian Army" in the country's mountainous northwestern Jabal al-Zawiya area. The following photos, originally published on July 11, 2012, give a glimpse into the daily lives of the rebels.

In this photo rebel commander Ahmad Bakran points out a Syrian Army checkpoint to NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel in the village of Marayan. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Syrian rebels from the “Al-Qasas Brigade” or “Justice Brigade” run through an olive grove to avoid Syrian Army snipers as they travel between villages on foot in the northwestern Jabal al-Zawiya area. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Rebel Commander Ahmad Bakran sits on his rebel flag-adorned motorcycle in the village of Mghara, Syria. Rebels say they prefer to use motorcycles when they can because they use less gas than cars. They also believe they are harder for Syrian forces to target. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Despite a preference for motorcycles, rebels in the Jabal al-Zawiya area will use any vehicle they can get their hands on in their fight against Syrian security forces. A heavy machine gun is mounted on the back of this beat-up truck used by rebels. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Rebels in Jabal al-Zawiya area use motorbike parts to jerry-rig this heavy machine gun so they can operate it manually. The rebels say a weapons shortage is the main reason why they have not toppled the Assad regime yet. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Abu Khalid, a member of the “Justice Brigade” in Jabal al-Zawya, plays with his 1-year-old daughter as fellow rebels look on. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Syria’s President Assad is depicted as a duck in graffiti in a village in the Jabal al-Zawiya area. The graffiti pokes fun at a leaked email exchange between Assad and his wife Asma in which she refers to him by his nickname “duck.”

Related story: 'I am the real dictator,' wife of Syria's Bashar Assad says. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Rebels from the "Justice Brigade” hide from Syrian Army snipers between olive trees as they travel between villages on foot in the Jabal al-Zawiya mountainous area. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Syrian children raise the victory sign in a village in the mountainous Jabal al-Zawiya area. Children have not been able to go to school in most of the villages in the area since the fighting began. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Rebels’ Russian-made AK-47s looted from Syrian Army checkpoints sit on a sink as they discuss tactics. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
A bottle of cheap cologne for men is converted into a homemade hand grenade the rebels will use in their fight against the Syrian army. Ghazi Balkiz
An old pistol and a hand-grenade sit casually on the floor in a rebel safe house. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Rebels cut a water tank in half to make each part into an improvised explosive device, known as an IED. In the absence of anti-tank mines, the rebels say have resorted to making their own bombs. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Rebel Abu Ra’ad changes the battery for a detonator on an anti-tank IED. This dangerous task has to be repeated every five days to make sure the bombs go off when they need them to. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Rebels use fertilizer and sugar to make explosives by cooking the mixture in a barrel on an open flame. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Rebels use an old Nissan jeep in their fight against Syrian security forces. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Rebels share a meal of “fateh,” chickpeas, bread and yogurt topped with herbs and tomatoes. The rebels have popular support in the area, so food is often cooked and delivered to them by locals. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Rebels say they get pounded with mortar rounds by Syrian government forces every day. This photo shows a rebel truck windshield that was hit by shrapnel, reportedly killing the two men who were inside the vehicle. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Rebels’ Russian-made AK-47s looted from Syrian Army checkpoints hang on the wall in their command center. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
A blindfolded “informer” sits on the floor in the rebel’s command center in Jabal al-Zawya. Rebels told NBC News he was caught aiding the Syrian Army in the area. They said that when he was searched, they found a cell phone with video footage of him and others gang raping what appeared to be a 14-year-old girl, a crime punishable by death, according to the rebels. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Men in Jabal al-Zawiya pay their respects to a fellow rebel killed in fighting before he is buried. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News
Rebels pray under graffiti of a passage from the Quran that glorifies martyrs. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News