KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — Rebels entrenched in the hills above one of eastern Congo’s largest cities declared a cease-fire on Friday and began retreating from the front line, the first indication that a joint United Nations and Congolese offensive might be gaining the upper hand in the conflict.
But in a sign that the conflict could spill over the border, a large convoy of military vehicles loaded with troops, tanks, artillery cannons, and heavy weaponry was seen leaving the capital of Rwanda, Congo’s neighbor to the east, which is accused of funneling arms and troops to the M23 rebels.
Rwandan leaders said they were acting to defend their border, after shells and rockets allegedly fired from the Congolese side of the Rwanda-Congo border landed in Rwandan territory, killing a mother and seriously wounding her 2-month-old baby.
Late Thursday, Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo of Rwanda said on her official Twitter account: ‘‘Deliberate shelling of Rwandan territory unacceptable. Rwandan civilians are falling victims. A provocation that will no longer B tolerated.’’
On Friday, the foreign minister tweeted: ‘‘Rwandan troops are not in DRC (yet); when they are, you will know.’’
The heightening of hostilities with Rwanda comes as Congolese and United Nations troops appear to be making significant gains against the M23 rebels. The UN intervention force has pounded the M23 rebel positions with attack helicopters and artillery fire.