NBC Producer Ghazi Balkiz traveled with NBC Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel through northern Syria, where they met with rebels resisting the army forces of President Bashar al- Assad. Rebels only travel at night in rebel-held areas away from the Syrian army's prying eyes. They tell us if they travel by day they would get shot at. Here we traveled with the rebels at night on what they call "Rebel Roads" to reach a town that the army has just pulled out of. The way it works is that when rebels travel in an area that is not theirs, in every town they go through they stop and talk to the local rebels and the town residents. Locals usually send a rebel escort who knows the area well until the next town is reached and the process gets repeated.
For Qassim Khatib, a father of five, a math teacher and now a rebel, the withdrawal of the Syrian army from the village of Marayan in Jabal Al-Zawya had another dimension. When the army invaded his village, it also kicked him and his family out of their house and used it as a base for a month. In this picture, he is in his kitchen on the first morning after the withdrawal. He did not bring his family with him because he wants to clean the house and take everything that the Syrian soldiers have touched in his house outside and burn it.
A boy stands in the courtyard of his house next to a room that was damaged in a mortar attack in a northern Syrian city. His father was seriously wounded and the boy received slight wounds when the shell struck the house as the family was eating.
A man bleeds in a northern Syria hospital after a ricochet bullet went through his foot. In a sense, he was lucky that the bullet did not stay in his body, which would have required surgery to remove. The hospital staff told us that until very recently they had run out of anesthetic and that they had to operate on some patients without it.
A woman grieves outside a northern Syria hospital where her son's body was brought after he was killed by a sniper. The deceased, an unarmed civilian, was shot in the head as he stood on a highway while waiting for a ride. The mother was crying, shouting and addressing her son to answer her back.
A rebel holds a gas mask left behind by the Syrian army in the newly liberated town of Marayan in northern Syria. Rebels tell us that what they fear the most is a chemical attack by President Bashar al-Assad's regime. The fact that Syrian forces had gas masks with them increases this fear.
Riding a motorcycle, wearing a combat vest and carrying an AK-47 is becoming the classic image of rebels in Syria. We were on a scouting mission with the rebels in northern Syria when these two rebels showed up.
Rebels in the newly liberated town of Marayan in northern Syria collect empty shell casings to be used as shrapnel in homemade bombs. The rebels’ arsenal consists mainly of AK-47s, RPGs, whatever they salvage from attacks on Syrian army posts and homemade bombs.
With a farmer's tan, Abu Jawad strips down to his underwear in a garage that is used as a bomb-making factory in a city in northern Syria. Rebels tell us that some of the material used to make the explosives is very fine and they don’t want it clinging to their clothes as the mix is very hard to wash off and also they don’t want explosive material in their clothes. Here Abu Jawad is smoking a cigarette before he starts the lengthy, tiresome and dangerous process of making explosives.
The very last step of preparing the homemade bomb is putting in a detonator. Here a rebel with hands coated with an aluminum-based ingredient separates the detonators to put them in the gas canisters.
A boy holds anti-aircraft rounds up to the camera and smiles in the newly liberated town of Marayan in northern Syria. At night time in the town the loud sounds of bombardment and explosions can still be heard as the Syrian army continues to shell this and other villages in Jabal Al-Zawya. Mothers told me that their children are very frightened of explosions' sounds and that they suffer from nightmares.
Rebels travel in the back of a pickup truck in a town in northern Syria.
Rebels step on a Syrian flag that was left behind by the army in the newly liberated town of Marayan in northern Syria. The rebels have adopted another flag that was used by revolutionaries against the French occupation of Syria in the 1920s.
Umm Ahmad at age 105 is the oldest woman in the newly liberated town of Marayan in northern Syria. During the siege of her town by the Syrian army, she and other town elders did not leave. Umm Ahmad's house was hit by mortar fire three times. She was wounded in her leg in one of the attacks. One of her sons was killed by Syrian forces while another son was held and tortured, resulting in the amputation of one of his legs.
Rebel commander Jihad Jazzar, our "guide" in the city of Ariha in northern Syria, stands between two pictures of himself. He tells us that he is ready to die for his country and that he has already bought his "martyr shroud," the white cloth that martyrs are wrapped with in the Muslim world. He also bought a grave and transferred the deed of his humble house to his wife. In this photo, Jihad stands between two "martyrdom pictures." These kinds of pictures are usually put up after someone has already died; he said he wanted to save his wife the hassle of making them. The Arabic writing on the pictures says, "The eye is watered, the heart is humbled. And we are sad that we have parted." The far picture to his left is of his father, who died in a mortar attack.