The cabinet yesterday approved the construction of a new international airport at Timna, in the Arava, 18 kilometers north of Eilat. The new airport will replace the present Eilat airport, and will be named in memory of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and his son Assaf.

The airport will cost an estimated NIS 1.7 billion to build, and it will handle domestic flights as well as those from Europe. Construction is expected to take three years.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz originally proposed building the new airport, which will be connected to Eilat via a new train line. A number of other facilities will be built alongside the airport, including a logistics center, a park-and-ride lot and a bus station to replace the present central bus station in Eilat. All these facilities are estimated to cost another NIS 400 million.

The ministry said it will complete the planning for the airport within 12 months - which puts the airport already a year and a half behind schedule.