Nightly News   |  July 06, 2012

Inside Syria, opposition forces gain strength

NBC’s Richard Engel, who just left Syria after spending a week getting a first-hand look inside the country, says "it was radically different" than the last time he visited now that opposition groups have created safe havens where they are openly in control. In those areas, Syrian troops – who are now concentrated in pockets within big cities -- could not be seen for hundreds of miles.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> richard engel is just out of syria on his way home now after spending the past week getting a first-hand look inside that country. he joins us tonight from istanbul. richard, what did you see on the ground in syria and how is it different this time from the last time you were there?

>> reporter: it was radically different. i was shocked. we went in with the syrian opposition. the last time i did that there were syrian troops everywhere. the opposition was operating in hiding, moving from house to house. this time the opposition has created real safe havens , big areas where they are in open control. we were going around on motorcycles with the opposition, talking to people, living in people's houses, and hardly saw any syrian troops for hundreds of miles. the syrian government forces simply do not control large parts of the country side now and have pulled back to major cities. it appears that because the opposition was so spread out in village after village the assad forces decided to consolidate and focus on the big cities . they don't have enough weapons. they don't have the fire power to drive out the government forces but they did have enough numbers and enough fire power to push the government forces into a few pockets. i found a very different country and a much stronger opposition.

>> richard engel just back from syria in istanbul tonight. a program note , you can see richard's reporting from "inside syria " all next week here on "nightly news" and on "rock center" next thursday night.