The United Nations says its recently deployed intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo may use force against
M23 rebels if they do not leave Goma.
The ultimatum came as the UN troops began installing a security zone around the town, forcibly disarming people found carrying weapons.
The M23 launched a new offensive against the Congolese army around Goma in mid-July. Neighbouring Rwanda has again denied accusations that it has been supporting the rebels.
In a report in June, UN experts said the M23 was continuing to recruit fighters in Rwanda aided by sympathetic military officers there. The US has called on Rwanda to stop its support, prompting a swift rebuff from Kigali.
Meanwhile the UN’s refugee agency has said the conflict in the region is uprooting more and more civilians and is exposing a growing number of people to rape.
“The fighting around Goma has forced between 6,000 and 7,000 people to flee their homes since July 14. The majority are women and children as well as young boys fleeing forced recruitment. The newly displaced are staying in schools and churches in the northern part of Goma,” said the UNHCR’s spokeswoman Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba.
According to the UNHCR, there has been an alarming rise in violent attacks, particularly rape, against women and girls in the region – with most assaults committed by armed men.
The refugee agency has set up training sessions to help police in Goma prevent and deal with sexual violence.
It says the situation has been complicated by resumed fighting between rebels from Uganda and the Congolese army.