Editor's note: CNN's Ivan Watson and crew are some of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been restricting access on foreign journalists and refusing many of them entry. Check out more from CNN inside Syria.
A distant machine gun rattled away in vain as a military helicopter flew long, slow circles, arcing from the contested Syrian city of Aleppo over to the rebel-controlled town of Anadan, six miles to the north.
A group of fighters stared and pointed from under the shelter of an overhanging building, until one man said in a worried tone, "Let's go away" before hurrying indoors.
In a matter of months, Syria's rebels have transformed themselves from ragtag village defense forces into an armed movement capable of attacking the country's two largest cities, Aleppo and Damascus. They have also punctured the image of invincibility projected by Syrian army tanks and armored personnel carriers, as proven by the twisted wreckage of armored vehicles that now litter some roads.
But the fighters still find themselves vastly out-gunned when facing government air power.
And yet, even that advantage may be shrinking.