PRESS ASSOCIATION -- At least seven police officers have been injured after coming under attack by crowds of rioters in west Belfast.
Petrol bombs and missiles, including stones and bricks, were thrown at officers as trouble flared throughout the night, the PSNI said.
A bus was also hijacked and driven at a police cordon, but crashed a short distance away, according to the force, while gun shots were also heard.
Riots broke out in the nationalist areas of Broadway, Old Park and North Queen Street in the west of the city late on Monday night and continued throughout the early hours. The trouble came as loyalists prepared for the traditional Twelfth of July celebrations which mark the 1690 Battle of the Boyne.
Tens of thousands of Orangemen and bandsmen are due to take to the streets later as part of the annual event, which signals the height of the marching season.
Police used water cannons and fired baton rounds to try and disperse crowds of around 100 and 200 people who began throwing stones and missiles at police lines in the Broadway area of the city.
A number of vehicles were reportedly hijacked with a motorbike and at least one van set on fire, according to police. Petrol was also thrown at officers in North Queen Street where around 40 people have gathered, the force said. A bus was hijacked on the Falls Road and then driven at a police cordon separating loyalists and nationalists on the Donegall Road, but crashed before reaching officers.
The PSNI said it was investigating reports of a number of gun shots in the Broadway and Village areas, but had no reports of any related injuries.
A number of injured police officers were taken to hospital, but none of their injuries are said to be life threatening, the PSNI said. A firefighter was injured and a fire appliance damaged during the serious street violence overnight.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said it had received 180 calls up to 1am, a 65% increase from last year. At the busiest time, the service was taking a call every 75 seconds, with most within the Greater Belfast area.
Deputy chief fire officer Chris Kerr said the NIFRS would continue to engage with community representatives to ensure public safety.
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