Hamas targeted a civilian area in southern Israel with a phosphorous mortar on Wednesday, police have confirmed to The Jerusalem Post. The mortar landed in open territory near a kibbutz in the Eshkol Regional Council, where police sappers recovered it. Local security officials described the mortar attack as an escalation, adding that a phosphorous shell is a more lethal weapon than the previous mortars fired at the area. The phosphorous in the mortar is designed to instantly set on fire any flammable targets around the mortar impact zone, and would cause burns to anyone in close proximity to the explosion, a police source explained. Human Rights Watch has claimed that Israel has used phosphorus shells against targets in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, a claim that the IDF has refuted. By Wednesday evening, Hamas had fired 17 rockets at Israel, with two landing in the southern Coastal Plain region. Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheba and Sderot also came under rocket fire throughout the day. No injuries were reported during the rocket attacks. A greenhouse was damaged in the Sdot Negev Regional Council after rockets were fired at the area.