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Eitan Biran returns to Italy after Supreme Court rejects appeal from mother’s family

6-year-old, sole survivor of Italian cable crash disaster, was illegally brought back to Israel by his grandfather amid bitter custody dispute

The Biran family, with Eitan at front right. (Courtesy)
The Biran family, with Eitan at front right. (Courtesy)

Eitan Biran, a 6-year-old boy who was orphaned in a cable car crash in Italy, returned to the country on Friday, days after Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a final appeal from his Israel-based family.

Biran — who was living in Italy at the time of the cable car crash in May that killed his parents, his younger brother and his great-grandparents — has become the subject of a bitter custody fight between his Italy-based paternal family and his Israel-based maternal family.

A lawyer from the maternal family oversaw the transfer at the airport, where Biran was accompanied on the flight by his aunt and two cousins.

“After 84 days since he was illegally taken from his home, he returns to his daily routine, his medical framework and his educational treatments, to his friends in the neighborhood, his school, the community he grew up in, and his loving cat Oliver,” said a statement from the Italian family.

After an Italian court temporarily granted the paternal family custody, Biran’s maternal grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, secretly smuggled the boy to Israel via Switzerland, prompting claims of kidnapping.

An Israeli court ruled earlier this month that Biran must be returned to Italy, but the transfer was delayed after his family appealed to the Supreme Court.

Aya Biran-Nirko (left) a paternal aunt of Eitan Biran, the boy who survived a cable car crash in Italy that killed his immediate family, arrives to court in Tel Aviv, on October 8, 2021. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

Following the ruling, the Peleg family said it would continue to fight “in every legal way” to return the child to Israel. It was not immediately clear what legal options were available following the Supreme Court ruling.

Attorneys for Aya Biran, his paternal aunt, welcomed the ruling, calling it “the end of an unfortunate episode” and expressing sorrow that the boy had been ripped away from his normal life after the tragedy and forced to endure months of upheaval.

An Italian court issued an international arrest warrant for Peleg earlier this month, and he was summoned for questioning by Israeli police and released under restrictions. Another Israeli man, Gabriel Abutbul Alon, who is accused of driving Peleg and Biran in a rental car to Switzerland, was also named in the arrest warrant.

Shmulik Peleg, grandfather of Eitan Biran, who survived a cable car crash in Italy that killed his immediate family, arrives at court in Tel Aviv, on Thursday, November 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Italian prosecutors accused Peleg and Alon of having planned and executed the crime “with lucid premeditation and meticulous organization.” Peleg maintains that he was operating in the best interests of the boy and seeking to carry out his parents’ wishes.

Last week, Alon was arrested by police in Cyprus. Law enforcement officials said they believed Alon’s extradition to Italy could take some time if he opts to fight it during court proceedings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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