The Defense Ministry completed early Thursday the fortification of Nitzan, a community of Gaza evacuees located between Ashkelon and Ashdod.
The decision to fortify the community, built by the Ministry for Jews who were evacuated from the Gush Katif settlement bloc during the IDF's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in the summer of 2005, was reached as part of the preparations for Operation Cast Lead, which has entered its sixth day.
The security establishment estimated that during the operation rockets emanating from the Hamas-controlled territory might reach Nitzan for the first time. Some 3,000 people live in the southern community, mostly in prefabricated houses (called caravillas).
During the project, which began on Sunday, hollowed-out concrete blocks (miguniyot) were placed by the residents' homes, sheltered rooms were placed near public buildings and educational institutions were also fortified.
The Defense Ministry said that the coming days will also see additional fortification works in Netivot, Yated and Yuval, as well as the revamping of bomb shelters in Ashkelon, Ofakim and other communities in south Israel.
The cost of the entire project is estimated at some NIS 15 million ($4 million).
During his tour of Nitzan on Wednesday, Defense Ministry Director-General Pinchas Bucharis praised the "speedy and efficient" fortification of the community.
"The Defense Ministry and the IDF's Home Front Command are obligated to assist the southern communities as best they can to provide the army with ample time to complete its mission," Bucharis said.