Car rammed into peace gates as explosives, fireworks and rocks thrown in Belfast

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A car was filmed appearing to ram into a gate at a ‘peace wall’ as explosives, fireworks and rocks were thrown during another night of violence in Northern Ireland.

The wall divides the community near Shankill Road, west Belfast, from the Irish nationalist stronghold of Springfield Road in Lanark Way.

Video footage shows a car appearing to ram open the peace gates following nearly a week of violence.

Further down the road a bonfire was lit where a crowd of approximately 100 people, mostly young, were assembled.

The gates of the peace line on Lanark Way were opened, leading to clashes between loyalists and nationalists as social media footage captured petrol bombs being thrown from both sides of the wall.

Stones were chucked at police while a press photographer was reportedly assaulted.

It was one of a number of incidents on Wednesday evening that took place on the peace line street that links the loyalist Shankill Road with the nationalist Springfield Road.

The Stormont Assembly is set to be recalled on Thursday morning for an emergency debate following days of violence.

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It follows several nights of unrest in loyalist communities amid tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol on Brexit and the PSNI’s handling of alleged coronavirus regulation breaches by Sinn Fein at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey.

Leaders of Northern Ireland’s largest political parties Sinn Fein and the DUP both condemned the violence that has erupted in the area in recent days.

“These actions do not represent unionism or loyalism. They are an embarrassment to Northern Ireland,” DUP leader Arlene Foster said in a Twitter post that went on to describe rivals Sinn Fein as “the real law breakers.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also condemned the clashes which saw a crowd of around 500 people, most of them adults, gathered on the corner of the junction at Lanark Way as events unfolded.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Johnson said: “I am deeply concerned by the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, especially attacks on PSNI who are protecting the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist.

“The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.”

The peace walls and fences were built between the two communities to prevent clashes during three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland that largely ended with a 1998 peace deal.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland statement said: “Police are advising members of the public to avoid these areas. We would appeal to those with influence in the area to use it to help restore calm.”

The force added it had closed gates after they were also set ablaze along with tyres and bins at Lanark Way, and continue to monitor the situation.

Videos circulating online show a bus being pelted with petrol bombs and having its windows smashed where a crowd of people had gathered.

Translink Metro said it had withdrawn all services into the area until further notice due to road closures, as well as services in east Belfast.

Riots and violence have taken place throughout the last week and resumed after a lull on Tuesday.

Police were attacked during another night of violence in a number of loyalist areas on Monday.

Nine officers were injured in Ballymena, taking to 41 the number injured in disorder across Northern Ireland since last Friday night.

The most intense clashes on Monday were witnessed in Ballymena, when nine riot police officers were injured after they intervened in an unlawful march of loyalists through the town.