"The food and security situation in Gaza is catastrophic," said Mario Carera, head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for Gaza and the West Bank.  The SDC, along with the United Nations and Swiss agencies are warning of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, which has been largely forgotten due to the conflict in Lebanon.  The situation in Gaza has seriously deteriorated over the past few weeks, say the Agencies.

Carera, who has just returned to Switzerland from a two-day fact-finding tour to the Gaza Strip, says the population in the occupied territories feels abandoned.

Karin Wenger, a Swiss journalist who lives in the region, says the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip depend on foreign aid and food distribution.

"The shift from poor to very poor is noticeable," she told swissinfo, a Swiss news agency, about the situation since the start of the Israeli military operation in Gaza at the end of June.

"Israel’s armed forces attack the Strip with up to 300 shells a day using aircraft and warships. Incursions by tanks and bulldozers terrorise the population.

"Among the more than 170 victims killed in this invasion are more than 50 children. This is a clear breach of international humanitarian law under which the civilians should be protected," she said.

Wenger, who works for several newspapers in Switzerland and Germany, said Israeli tanks and bulldozers had destroyed houses and large parts of agricultural land, as well as power cables and irrigation systems.

"The impact on farmers and on civilians is therefore tremendous."

Both Carera and Wenger say the difficult financial situation of many Palestinians is a result of an international boycott of the militant Islamic Hamas-led government which won elections in the occupied territories earlier this year.

Carera said most shops had closed and public life had come to standstill.

In June Israel destroyed the only power plant in Gaza leaving nearly half the local population without electricity and the main border crossing at Rafah was also closed.

Wenger for her part says the Gaza Strip resembles a huge prison. "It’s an overall feeling of hopelessness and desperation. This leads to more and more violence in the community."

The Swiss government’s aid agency and its partner organisations in the region are facing increasing logistical difficulties.

Some emergency aid supplies could not be delivered to Gaza because they were blocked at the border by the Israelis, according to Carera.

SDC and the Palestinian health authorities had agreed on the delivery of medications as part of a coordinated aid effort in June.

SDC’s partner organisations even had to suspend or cancel a series of other projects including the relaunch of nurseries for children, welfare centres and agricultural land.

Carera also said there was a shortage of cement and steel bars used to reinforce masonry structures which prompted a four-fold increase in prices.

*this article was sourced from swissinfo