GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug 22 (Reuters) - The head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo on Thursday ordered his troops to take whatever action was needed to protect civilians after shelling hit the city of Goma on the Rwandan border in renewed fighting between the army and M23 rebels.
The fighting close to Goma, a city of one million people, comes after a relative lull in the 18-month rebellion. Earlier this month, the United Nations pledged to keep the M23 rebels out of range of the town, which they briefly seized last year.
Rwanda, which has long had strained relations with its neighbour, accused the Congolese army of deliberately firing artillery into its territory. Kinshasa denied the reports and repeated accusations that Rwanda backs M23. Rwanda denies that.
Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. mission known as MONUSCO, said populated areas and U.N. positions had been directly targeted during the clashes on Thursday.
"I have ordered the MONUSCO Force to react and to take necessary action to protect civilians and prevent an advance by the M23," he said, without giving any further details.
A Reuters reporter in Goma said three shells landed in the town and saw the bodies of two children killed in one of the explosions. Another civilian was killed and four others wounded, officials at a local hospital said. Two Congolese soldiers were also wounded, they said.
Meanwhile, Rwanda's defence ministry said a rocket had hit the Rwandan border village of Buga and blamed the Congolese army for what it called "a provocative act". No casualties were reported in Rwanda, but the ministry said the explosion had damaged property. (Reporting by Kenny Katombe; Additional reporting by Jonny Hogg in Kinshasa; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by David Lewis and Louise Ireland)