The Cabinet on Sunday unanimously approved a plan to fortify homes located between 4.5 and 7 kilometers (approximately 3 to 4.5 miles) from the Gaza border.

According to the Defense Ministry, construction of the fortifications for the 26 affected towns will cost an estimated NIS 270 million ($70 million).

The plan is expected to include the installation of 1,629 reinforced “secure rooms” in homes within rocket range at a cost of NIS 250 million, with the rest going for fortification of schools between 7 and 15 kilometers from the Gaza Strip by the end of 2013.

Until now, only educational facilities had been protected.

The government authorized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to determine within 30 days the source of funding for the plan, with no need to bring it before the government for additional approval.

“We are doing this because attacks by rockets and missiles at shorter distances are much greater in the area around the Gaza Strip than at other distances,” the prime minister said. “I think that this is what residents of the south have been hoping for; they have been calling for it for a long time.”

The Defense Ministry’s reinforcement plan was announced in response to a barrage of more than 80 rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday that damaged eight homes in five Israeli towns near Gaza.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Channel 2 Wednesday night that “we will do whatever is necessary in order to return residents of southern Israel to ordinary life.”