Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Eitan Biran, a 6-year-old boy who was orphaned in a cable car crash in Italy, must be returned to his paternal family in Italy by December 12, rejecting 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.
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.
Following Monday’s 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.
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.
On Friday, 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.