Ramon International Airport in the Timna Valley, southern Israel
Ramon International Airport in the Timna Valley, southern IsraelFlash 90

Israel plans to inaugurate a new international airport in the south of the country near the Red Sea later this month, the transport minister announced Tuesday.

The Ramon airport will begin with only domestic flights before gradually moving toward full operation, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said in a statement.

The inauguration ceremony will be held on January 21 with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in attendance.

Initially domestic flights will be operated by the Arkia and Israir carriers. A timeframe was not given for when the airport will be fully operational.

Construction costs for the airport have been put at 1.7 billion shekels ($455 million, 395 million euros). Work got underway in 2013 but original specifications for the project were revised to allow for upgrades.

The airport will be some 11 miles from the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat and near the Jordanian port of Aqaba.

Its website says that it will be able to initially handle up to two million passengers annually, but will be able to expand to a capacity of 4.2 million by 2030.

It will replace Ovda airport, some 37 miles away from Eilat, and will be able to serve as an alternative to Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv during times of emergency.

The new airport is named after Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut who died when the space shuttle Columbia broke apart on reentry in 2003.