"The fighting was very violent between the Congolese military and the M23 rebels back by the Rwandan army," he said. "Rwandan forces bombarded our positions in Kibumba since early this morning and an estimated 3,500 crossed the border to attack us."
Reports by United Nations experts have accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the rebels. Both countries strongly deny any involvement and Uganda said if the charges continue it will pull its peacekeeping troops of Somalia where they are playing an important role in pushing out the Islamist extremist rebels.
The M23 was created after officers from the Congolese army defected in April and May and launched a rebellion to demand better pay, armaments and amnesty from war crimes.
Direct fighting broke out Thursday in Rugari, the town between the M23 and the Congolese army positions, only 19 miles from Goma, the provincial capital, and around nine miles from Kanyaruchinya, a camp where more than 60,000 people have already sought refuge from the fighting since June.
The army spokesman in North Kivu, Col. Olivier Hamuli, said Friday that two army officers were killed and seven were wounded in the fighting in the Kibumba area.
An M23 spokesman, Col. Vianney Kazarama, denied the heavy casualties, saying that only two rebels were wounded.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo said it was the worst battle since July. At U.N. headquarters in New York, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said there are indications that 1,500 to 2,500 people may have fled the area as a result of the fighting.
Paluku said the country faces a humanitarian crisis as those displaced are moving toward Kanyaruchinya.
Since August, members of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region have been holding talks in Kampala, Uganda, to try to find a solution to the conflict. There had been a de facto cease-fire during the mediation, but tensions mounted on the ground over the last two weeks as the talks seemed to be reaching a dead end.
The U.N. and the United States have both imposed sanctions on the M23 leader, Sultani Makenga, who is accused of forcing children into the M23 ranks.