POLICE arrested eight people during the worst night of violence in east Belfast when officers were fired on by loyalist paramilitaries.
A gun man opened up on police lines in the lower Newtownards Road on Saturday afternoon as a third day of trouble erupted.
The PSNI said officers fired plastic baton rounds three times during the disturbances which came after 1,000 Union flag protestors held a rally at Belfast City Hall.
Loyalists claimed they first came under attack from nationalists in the Short Strand, sparking ten hours of violence in the east of the city.
Water cannon was also used as officers came under attack from over 100 people, throwing petrol bombs, stones and fireworks.
One officer was injured but didn’t require hospital treatment.
Shortly after police came under gun fire attack, a 38-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
PSNI officers arrested him after a police helicopter helped direct search teams to the firing point.
Belfast Daily had revealed on Friday that police chiefs had warned frontline officers in east Belfats loyalist paramilitaries were prepared to use live rounds on them
Following the City Hall parade, police dealt with public disorder in a number of locations including Templemore Avenue and the Albertbridge Road.
Bricks, bottles, fireworks and smoke canisters were thrown by the rioters on the Lower Newtownards Road.
On Saturday evening, dissident republicans called for supporters from north and west Belfast to converge in the Short Strand.
Republican sources confirmed to Belfast Daily that hooded men seen in the Short Strand were dissidents from other parts of the city.
“The call went out for people to come and stand with the people of the Short Strand. Things were very hairy at one point,” said the source.
Police Federation chairman Terry Spence said he had no doubt that paramilitaries had been involved in the violence.
He said: “This is a very sinister development and quite clearly the police came under fire this afternoon from a gunman.
“What it clearly does demonstrate is that there has been paramilitary involvement in these attacks on police and it has been orchestrated, in the case of east Belfast, by the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force).”
However, DUP MLA Robin Newton said it was too early to say whether the violence had been organised.
“I’m going to wait until the police actually indicate that from their intelligence, they haven’t indicated that these riots have been orchestrated by the UVF,” he said.
“We do need to be concerned about the number of injuries on the police officers – this is just not a good situation for the east of the city.”
Three other men were arrested during earlier trouble which happened close to the nationalist Short Strand area.
A car was burnt out on the Albertbridge Road during trouble on Saturday evening
As trouble engulfed the east of the city, 13 people appeared at a special sitting of Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday night charged in connection with the recent rioting in east Belfast.
Eleven men and one woman were remanded in custody during hearing held in the Royal Courts of Justice.
One woman was released on bail to attend a hospital appointment during the special two-hour sitting was before Judge George Connor.
Nine police officers were injured and 22 people arrested during rioting in east Belfast and Newtownabbey on Friday.
More than 30 petrol bombs and other missiles were thrown at police in east Belfast.
In Newtownabbey, police were attacked by a crowd throwing bricks and bottles.
A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall.