Tension remained high in the Gush Etzion settlement of Bat Ayin on Thursday as the IDF retained a reinforced presence in the area after 16 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with settlers the day before. The violence erupted after Bat Ayin residents were allowed to say the Birkat Hahama prayer early Wednesday morning on a hill between their settlement and the nearby village of Hirbat Safa. According to the settlers, at a certain point during the prayer service a number of Palestinians began throwing stones. The Palestinians, however, claimed that the settlers entered their village and shot in the air, damaging property. IDF soldiers arrived at the scene and reportedly opened fire in the direction of the Palestinians. In total, 16 Palestinians were wounded, including one who was reportedly in critical condition. The IDF said that due to massive stone throwing, the soldiers had used riot gear to stop the clash, including rubber bullets. When the violence intensified, the troops were ordered to shoot at the legs of some of the stone throwers. Last week a terrorist with an ax infiltrated Bat Ayin, murdered 13-year old Shlomo Nativ and injured a 7-year old boy. On Wednesday night, an IDF soldier shot and wounded a Palestinian near the West Bank village of Hizma after the man allegedly tried to steal his weapon. The Palestinian sustained a gunshot wound to the stomach and was evacuated to a hospital in Ramallah.