Girl Exposed to White Phosphorus in Attacks on Rafah

Because white phosphorus isn’t technically banned from use in war, Judy is fighting for her life.

Valentine Wiggin
3 min readMay 11, 2024
Picture of Judy (8 year old girl with fair skin and blonde hair) with an oxygen mask laying on blankets

Judy, one of Mosa Abu Shaban’s five children, was exposed to white phosphorus less than a week ago. According to a recent update to the family’s GoFundMe, Judy, the family’s second youngest child, she needs oxygen treatments. However, because of Israel’s targeting of hospitals, even the most basic of medical services are scarce and prohibitively expensive. Even if the family has enough money for treatment, there is no guarantee that this girl will be able to receive the help she needs.

Because of the closure of the Rafah crossing, aid cannot enter the southern regions of Gaza by land. This makes even the most basic of resources, such as food or water, even more scarce than they were before the closure. Even without the closure of the Rafah crossing, many medical supplies are prohibited from entering Gaza. CNN reviewed lists of items that were frequently prohibited from entry. These included oxygen tanks, anesthetic machines, anesthetic gas, other medical supplies, and water filtration systems.

Even the most basic of pain are scarce in Gaza and when they are available, it costs much more than it would cost under ordinary circumstances. There is also no guarantee that any medicine available would even help. Current treatments for white phosphorus involve removing the chemical as much as possible with medical forceps and flushing the wounds with clean water or saline. Despite these treatments requiring basic equipment that all medical facilities should have, even a bag of saline suitable for flushing wounds may not be available for Judy.

Clean water is scarce in Gaza. As a result of Israel’s occupation, Gazans suffer from inadequate water quality and quantity. They are left with only three liters of water a day to cover all needs. This includes not only drinking, but also cooking, cleaning, and other tasks that involve water. A lack of infrastructure has also led to water contamination. This caused cases of diarrheal diseases and hepatitis to skyrocket in Gaza.

These conditions pose particular danger to children like Judy and other victims of white phosphorus use in Gaza. People who sustain severe burns are vulnerable to infection due to the lack of protection that skin offers. As such, severe burns are typically treated with specialized dressings and antibiotic ointments. Many patients are even isolated from others with doctors and nurses having to enter in gowns and gloves due to their increased vulnerability to infectious disease.

However, in Judy’s case, she stays in a tent in close quarters with her family. These tents also get wet due to the rain, which can allow contaminated water to enter the tents. The use of white phosphorus in munitions isn’t explicitly banned in any international law. However, international law specifies that parties at war must protect civilians on either side from harm.

One of the ways to mitigate civilian impact is to not firing white phosphorus-containing weapons into densely populated civilian area. An HRW report from 2009 concluded that, while the use of white phosphorus isn’t illegal to use altogether, that the IDF’s improper use of the chemical was a violation of international law. Not only did they use it in the air where it could land on civilians, but they used it in a densely populated civilian area.

White phosphorus falls outside of laws that cover incendiary weapons because it serves other purposes such as signaling or smoke screening. However, there are safer alternatives available to use for both purposes. Israel has repeatedly failed to mitigate harm to civilians on multiple occasions for years on end before October 7, 2023. This nation’s indiscriminate bombing tactics leave children like Judy fighting for their lives with no way to mitigate their pain.



Valentine Wiggin

Death-positive, sex-positive, and LGBTQ-affirming Christian. Gen Z. I hate onions. She/her