The Israeli government has revealed plans to build a new international airport at Timna, near Eilat, which will replace the city’s current J. Hozman Airport.
The cabinet announced that the new airport would replace Eilat’s current gateway and “promote the economic progress of the city” by freeing up land for tourism, commerce and housing.
At the moment, most commercial international flights fly to Ovda International Airport because of its longer runway, however when the new airport is completed, civilian use of the military airport at Ovda will stop, the government added.
Only a few international flights currently operate from Eilat due to its relatively short runway, and so it mostly handles domestic flights to Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Israel Airports Authority will finance the construction of the $472 million airport and will operate it when it is finished.
The government expects the new gateway to be built within the next three years and to handle a predicted 1.5mppa – 90% of which will be from international flights.
The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the decision to move Eilat's airport outside the city is part of a larger plan to develop and modernise Eilat and the surrounding area, which includes building a new railway line to the city.
He said: "This airport, which the government recommends be named after Ilan and Assaf Ramon, will be an alternative to Ben-Gurion International Airport.
“It will free up considerable land in Eilat, provide a solution for the expansion of Eilat and prevent noise and other pollution in the city.
“In other words, this is a very important decision. It is part of the steps we are taking to change Eilat and the Negev, including laying a railway to Eilat and widening the Aravah road.
“We are also checking on the possibility of moving the Eilat port. All of these things are really changing the face of reality in Eilat and the south of the country.”