Nightly News   |  July 31, 2012

Turning point? Syrian rebels obtain missiles

For days the Syrian troops' weapons have given them the upper hand during key battles in Aleppo, but the rebels – now armed with powerful shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles -- are preparing for a different kind of fight. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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>>> the battle for aleppo is now in its 12th day. tonight richard engel has learned of a development in that battle that may be a turning point for the rebels . richard is with us again tonight from inside syria.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. rebel sources tell nbc news that for the first time in this conflict the free syrian army has been armed with nearly 2 dozen shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles. they came in from turkey, rebels hope this is the first batch and say their effects will be felt soon.

>> for days in aleppo , syrian troops have had total air superiority . that is now changing. and the new anti-aircraft weapons could help their battle for aleppo . the syrian government promised to make quick work of what it called the frists in aleppo . but the rebels are holding on. the rebels battled to defend every corner of their strong hold in the southwest of the city. they took over a police station , defaced images of president assad. thousands of civilians continue to flee the city today. a doctor who didn't want to be fully identified escaped aleppo and said the city is critically short of medical supplies. a few miles away , a vegetable merchant says the syrian government isn't just attacking aleppo , but shelling towns around it, to cut off the rebels ' movements.

>> you were eating in your house and then a big explosion?

>> they were having dinner, he says. in towns all around aleppo , rebels are setting up defensive positions in case they're attacked next. here they've set up a barricade on a main road . it wouldn't stop a tank invasion, but at least might slow it down. the rebels are preparing. now armed with weapons that can counter assad's feared air force . richard engel , nbc news, in