Panic has broken out among the approximately 400,000 inhabitants. Tens of thousands of people fled from a nearby refugee camp.
"The situation is extremely worrying, tense and unpredictable," a spokesman for the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (unocha) told dpa news agency.
After a relatively quiet night, the rebels of the M23 movement had launched a new offensive, radio okapi reported, citing army sources. This is supported in the fight against the insurgents by the UN peacekeeping force monusco.
Aid organizations had begun to bring foreign workers to neighboring rwanda, he continued. In view of the dangerous situation, the supply of thousands of refugees was at risk.
Combat helicopters of the united nations tried in vain over the weekend to stop the advance of the rebels. Despite massive shelling by helicopters, the M23 fighters were able to capture the village of kibumba on saturday. If the metropolis of goma also falls, the UN says there is a threat of a humanitarian catastrophe.
In view of the situation in the democratic republic of the congo, the UN security council held a special meeting in new york on saturday. Herve ladsous, head of all UN peace missions, spoke of a dramatic deterioration in the situation.
In a statement issued in brussel on sunday, eu envoy catherine ashton called on the rebels to immediately cease their attacks on goma and allow aid agencies access to the people in need.
The UN accuses rwanda of supporting the M23 – named after the 23. March 2009, when a peace agreement was actually being negotiated – to support. The background is the conflict between hutu and tutsi, which claimed the lives of up to one million tutsi in the 1994 massacres. The M23 is influenced by the tutsis – as is the government of rwanda.
The rebels are allegedly led by the deserted congolese general bosco ntaganda. The 39-year-old who calls himself "the terminator" is wanted by the international criminal court for war crimes.
The UN peacekeeping force monusco has been in existence since november 1999. With more than 20,000 men, it is not only by far the largest blue helmet mission, but also the most expensive, with a budget of more than one billion dollars.