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Syrian planes bomb Damascus

Assad’s allies also blast EU support of opposition

BEIRUT — Syrian warplanes bombed Damascus suburbs and rebel-held areas in the country’s north Wednesday as the government blasted the European Union for endorsing a newly formed opposition coalition.

The raids struck several eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital and the strategic northern city of Maaret al-Numan, a key supply route linking Damascus and the commercial hub of Aleppo, said two activist groups. Both the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees also reported violence elsewhere in Syria.

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The state-run news agency SANA said the army continued its pursuit of ‘‘terrorists’’ — a government term for rebel fighters — in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen, inflicting casualties on the enemy. The report also said that attackers targeted a mosque in Daraya suburb.

Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts. The crisis has since morphed into a civil war, with scores of rebel groups across the country fighting government troops. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in the 20 months of unrest, according to activists.

The civil war has often spilled over to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees have fled to the three neighboring countries as violence in Syria rages, raising fears of a wider war in the volatile region.

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Turkey’s government requested deployment of NATO’s Patriot surface-to-air missiles Wednesday to bolster its defenses along its border with Syria and prevent a spillover, NATO officials said.

Turkey first backed Assad in the uprising but then called for his resignation as opposition gained strength this year, throwing its support behind the rebels. Ankara has also been retaliating for shelling and mortar fire from Syria. The first incident was Oct. 3, when shells from Syria struck a Turkish village near the Syrian border, killing two women and three children.

NATO doesn’t want to be drawn into the Syrian conflict, saying it would consider deploying the missiles purely to protect Turkey, a member country.

‘‘Allies will discuss this without delay,’’ NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Twitter. In a separate statement, he said the deployment would augment alliance member Turkey’s air defense capabilities and ‘‘would contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along NATO’s southeastern border.’’

Assad’s regime blames the revolt on a foreign conspiracy and accuses Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with the United States, other Western countries, and Turkey, of funding, training, and arming the rebels.

On Wednesday, Damascus criticized the European Union for recognizing the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition as a legitimate voice of the Syrian people.

In a front-page editorial, the state-run daily Al-Thawra newspaper derided the coalition formed this month as a ‘‘deformed’’ newborn baby, saying all possible ‘‘cosmetic surgeries do not bode well for the evolution of this monster.’’

EU’s 27 foreign ministers recognized the Syrian coalition during their monthly meeting this week.

The National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces was formed Nov. 11, in Qatar under pressure from the United States for a stronger, more united opposition body to serve as a counterweight to the more extremist forces fighting Assad’s regime.

The endorsement was a major step forward in the West’s acceptance of the group.

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