Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said: “We have been working very closely with partners over the last number of weeks to deliver for the community and support them.

“Our communities have made it very clear that they do not support and do not want internment bonfires in their areas. To address community concerns we have been working closely with a range of partners who have a role in community safety over recent weeks, including the Department for Justice, Department for Infrastructure, Department for Communities as well as partners in housing, education and health. Our collective aim is to support local communities and ensure that young people are kept safe and out of harm’s way. A key part of this approach has been to support and protect contractors to remove bonfire material that we have seen gathering up around various sites across Belfast and elsewhere on numerous occasions over the last couple of weeks.

“These operations were largely successful with little or no disturbance.

“Following the removal of bonfire material from Distillery Street yesterday, we came under sustained and violent attack. Within this heavy masonry and heavy objects including a vehicle brake disc were used and 29 of our officers have sustained injuries. Three required hospital treatment and several others received medical treatment for a range of injuries including concussion and head, neck and back injuries. All officers have now been discharged from hospital.

“This disgraceful attack on officers that were simply doing their job and serving the community cannot be tolerated. I would ask anyone with information to come forward to us by phoning 101.

“I would like to thank community representatives and our partners for their ongoing support and we will continue to serve our communities and make progress on these issues.”