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Iraqi Shiite fighters from the Iran-backed armed group Hezbollah Brigades. Photo: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images

The Pentagon announced in a statement Sunday that the U.S. conducted "precision defensive strikes" on five facilities in Iraq and Syria belonging to Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Iraqi militia.

The big picture: The Defense Department said the airstrikes were a response to a Friday Hezbollah rocket barrage that killed a U.S. defense contractor in a military compound in northern Iraq. Kataeb Hezbollah, also known as Hezbollah Brigades, said 19 fighters were killed and 35 injured, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The airstrikes could lead to a further escalation between the U.S. and Iranian proxy forces in the region after months of tensions.

  • "Iran and their KH proxy forces must cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, and respect Iraq's sovereignty, to prevent additional defensive actions by U.S. forces," Pentagon official Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
  • A spokesman for KH said in a statement: “For those who ask about the response: it will be the size of our faith."

The big picture: Iraq also risks being caught in the middle of an escalating conflict between the U.S. and Iran. An Iraqi spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that Defense Secretary Mark Esper notified Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi 30 minutes before the airstrikes, and that Abdul-Mahdi strongly objected.

  • “We consider it a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a dangerous escalation that will threaten Iraq and the region," the spokesperson told the WSJ.

Go deeper: Where U.S. troops and military assets are deployed in the Middle East

Go deeper

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.