World

Watchdog: Israel quietly develops plans to build settlements in strategic West Bank area

An Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group says the government has quietly worked on plans to build more than 8,000 homes in a strategic section of the West Bank near Jerusalem.

Peace Now said it had obtained the information from Israel's Housing Ministry in response to a freedom of information request.

In a report Monday, the group said the construction is envisioned in the area known as E1.

The Palestinians, along with the international community, strongly object to settlement of the area. They say it would separate a future Palestinian state from east Jerusalem and drive a big wedge between the northern and southern flanks of the West Bank.

The Housing Ministry says the plans were drawn up several years ago and there have been "no activities whatsoever" in E1 this year.