June 14, 2012 - 12:00am

The Israeli government announced a 90-million-shekel (almost 24 million U.S. dollars) project to shield all educational institutions in a 7-to-15 km radius from the Gaza Strip.

Some schools beyond that range have already been strengthened against upwards of 10,000 rockets and mortars that have been fired out of the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.

Outgoing Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai officially launched the project during a farewell visit to the area on Wednesday, sources at the Defense Ministry told Xinhua on Thursday.

Vilnai stressed the necessity of constructing reinforced rooms and related protective structures for more than 100,000 residents of dozens of towns, villages and kibbutz farms dotting the area.

"The same way a combat soldier is protected by the best flak jacket available, so to do residents of the local councils on the front lines merit the best available protection," said Vilnai, who will soon assume the post of envoy to China.

Since the beginning of the year, Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired more than 265 rockets into Israel, according to the army.

Many of the munitions launched over the past decade targeted schools and kindergartens, which, luckily, were unused at the time.

Among the structures already built and inaugurated on Wednesday were protected kindergartens in communities close-in to Gaza, and a reinforced medical facility at Kibbutz Yad Modechai along the coast, the ministry said.

Noting that "The national responsibility does not end with sending people to settle the State of Israel's borders," Vilnai insisted that "the government has the ability to also create a normative lifestyle for them."

Security authorities estimate that the project will be finished by September 2013.


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