ISTANBUL           -          Turkey’s military operations have inflicted heavy losses on Hezbollah militias in Idlib, northwestern Syria, and their panic is evident in internal communications accessed by Anadolu Agency.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah militias support Assad regime forces against Syria’s moderate opposition groups, and have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians.

They use WhatsApp groups for coordination and communication, and recent messages show their growing anxiety as Turkish forces make gains to protect Syrian civilians.

In messages seen by Anadolu Agency, the militia members blamed Russia for not helping them against Turkish forces and complained about being abandoned by the Assad regime forces.

They said the regime forces had fled from the area and left them all alone. A voice message heard by Anadolu Agency contained an update on the latest developments in the Idlib de-escalation zone.

“The Russians did not help and the Syrian forces have escaped. Our youth are left alone. The Turkish army has taken the region under heavy bombardment. We have losses under the debris. We have reached nine of them including Abbas and Jafar,” a militant was heard as saying.

“There is nothing certain yet; the Russians are still indifferent to these developments. Do not ask anything for now; the situation is highly critical.”

Other messages on the group chats showed the panicked militias launched a campaign for prayers, a move that become a sort of ritual for them in critical times.

The “heavy bombardment” the militant mentioned was Turkey’s powerful retaliation to Thursday night’s deadly attack on its troops by regime forces.

Late on Thursday, at least 34 Turkish soldiers were martyred and dozens more injured in an airstrike by the Assad regime in the Idlib de-escalation zone, just across Turkey’s southern border.

The strike was the latest in a series of regime attacks on Turkish troops this year.

Turkish officials kept their their pledge that such assaults would not go unanswered and pounded regime targets from the ground and air.

Turkish forces are in Idlib to protect civilians as per the September 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.

But more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by Assad and Russian forces since then as the cease-fire continues to be violated.

The de-escalation zone is currently home to four million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks.

Since the eruption of the bloody civil war in Syria in 2011, Turkey has taken in some 3.7 million Syrians who fled their country, making it the world’s top refugee-hosting country.