Mannagh, Syria - Here in the north, rebels call it "the final battle." For more than a month, lightly armed fighters have hurled themselves against a well-fortified helicopter base located less than a 15-minute drive from the border with Turkey.
The rebels say the last piece of government-controlled territory between Turkey and Syria's largest city, Aleppo, is Mannagh airbase. The battle for it is a modern-day siege.
"It is like a germ infecting the countryside. If the regime has even a 1% chance of taking back this region, this is a base that they would then want to rule from," said Abu Marwan, the young commander of the rebel Northern Storm brigade. "Once it has been captured, the north will be liberated."
The siege does underscore one important point: It has taken less than a year for Syria's rebels to go from being hunted in their homes to now encircling and attacking some of the largest military bases in the country.