About a thousand people, including Palestinians and their supporters, rallied in Tokyo on Wednesday to commemorate 76 years since Palestinians were forced from their homeland to make way for the creation of Israel.

Similar protests have been held worldwide amid a brutal war in Gaza, which has seen over 35,000 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in response to the Oct. 7 cross-border attack by the militant group Hamas.

The Nakba, meaning "catastrophe" in Arabic, is seen by Palestinians as a pivotal event in their history when some 700,000 were forcibly expelled from their homes in 1948. Nakba Day is commemorated on May 15, a day after Israel's Independence Day.

The demonstrators gathered in the capital's Shinjuku area held signs written in Japanese and English calling for Palestinian liberation and a cease-fire in Gaza. A large number carried motifs of keys, symbolizing the keys many families still have for the homes they were expelled from in Historic Palestine, organizers said.

Protesters in Tokyo rally to commemorate 76 years of Palestinian displacement amid the Israel-Gaza war on May 15, 2024. (Kyodo)

"The memory of our homeland, and the right to return, live on in us," said Hanin Siam, 27, a Gaza-born resident in Japan, in her address to the crowd outside JR Shinjuku Station. "The young still remember, the young still resist," she said.

A 32-year-old Japanese attendee said he previously had limited knowledge of the Israel-Palestine conflict but now participates in pro-Palestine protests following the surge of information online since October.

"I came to take photos to post on social media and hope they provide a learning opportunity for people who weren't interested before," he said.

The protests come as Israel has focused its military campaign against Hamas on the southern Gazan region of Rafah.

The United States, Israel's biggest ally, halted some weapons supplies to Israel in opposition to a full-scale invasion of Rafah amid concerns over the spiraling humanitarian crisis.

The administration of President Joe Biden, however, has notified the U.S. Congress that it would send $1 billion worth of new arms to Israel, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing congressional officials.

Japan's stance on the conflict has generally aligned with that of the United States. However, last week, it was among 143 states and territories that supported a U.N. General Assembly resolution advocating full Palestinian membership in the United Nations and calling for the Security Council to reconsider the matter favorably.

Nine other members, including the United States and Israel, opposed, while 25 abstained.

In April, the powerful Security Council vetoed a membership request.

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