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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

24 mins ago - Health

Florida records most new daily COVID cases in state since pandemic began

Nurses bring a portable x-ray machine to a treatment tent outside the emergency department at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Florida, set up to serve as an overflow area as the number of COVID-19 infections surges throughout Brevard County. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida reported 21,683 new COVID-19 cases — the most in the state in a single day since the pandemic began, per data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday.

The big picture: Florida is now the U.S. coronavirus epicenter, with the Delta variant driving a surge, Axios Tampa Bay's Ben Montgomery notes.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

Chart: Less than 0.1% of vaccinated Americans tested positive for COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: CDC and state Covid dashboards. Dani Alberti/Axios

Of the 164 million vaccinated Americans, around 125,000 people have tested positive for breakthrough infections and 0.001% have died, according to state data compiled from state dashboards by NBC and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: While "breakthrough cases" have been getting media attention, the low numbers show that the pandemic is mostly a threat for the unvaccinated population.

Biden officials celebrate infrastructure deal in fuel-cell big rig

White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm celebrated progress on President Biden's infrastructure package by taking a spin in a Kenworth fuel-cell, zero-emissions Class A truck.

What they're saying: "We have a deal, a Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework deal," Granholm said. McCarthy responded: "it's big and it's beautiful."