Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday that Iran’s destabilizing actions in Syria risk an escalation with Israel that could spark a larger regional conflict.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mattis said Iran has continued to work through its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, to expand Tehran’s influence in the Middle East.

Fears over a new conflict breaking out deepened in February when an Iranian drone launched from Syria crossed into Israeli airspace. The drone was immediately shot down, setting off a day of tense fighting that culminated in the downing of an Israeli jet that had been bombing Iranian positions in Syria.

Sen. Jack Reid (D., R.I.) pressed Mattis on the incident, asking the defense secretary whether he believes there is a “significant risk of escalation at this moment that would not only engulf Syria, but spread throughout the region.”

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