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Maternal family of cable car crash orphan appeals ruling to send boy to Italy

Relatives in Israel say Eitan Biran’s wishes to remain with them are not being taken into account, claim paternal aunt preventing them from visiting him

Paternal aunt Aya Biran-Nirko (left) and maternal aunt Gali Peleg arrive at a Tel Aviv family court for a hearing on custody over Eitan Biran, 6, the only survivor of a cable car disaster in Italy, on September 23, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Paternal aunt Aya Biran-Nirko (left) and maternal aunt Gali Peleg arrive at a Tel Aviv family court for a hearing on custody over Eitan Biran, 6, the only survivor of a cable car disaster in Italy, on September 23, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The maternal relatives of a boy whose parents died in an Italian cable car crash submitted an appeal on Monday of a Tel Aviv court decision to send the 6-year-old back to Italy where he would remain in the custody of a paternal aunt.

“The boy has expressed his clear desire to remain in his mother’s family’s care,” the Peleg family wrote in their appeal, which also claims that his paternal aunt, Aya Biran, who is currently in Israel, is preventing them from visiting the orphaned child.

The battle for custody of Eitan Biran, the sole survivor of the May accident that killed 14 people, including his parents, younger brother and great-grandparents, has captured headlines since his maternal grandfather, Shmulik Peleg, brought him to Israel on a private jet in September.

Last week, the Tel Aviv family court ruled that Eitan Biran be returned to his family in Italy.

The judge recognized Aya Biran as a legitimate guardian based on a ruling by an Italian court and said Peleg had “unlawfully” removed the boy from his aunt’s care.

The court “ordered the return of the minor to his usual place of residence in Italy,” the country where he had been living since he was a month old, and noted that it is there that the boy’s future and well-being will be decided. In addition, Shmulik Peleg was ordered to pay NIS 70,000 ($21,835) in court expenses.

The Biran family, with Eitan on the right. (Courtesy)

In their appeal, the Pelegs maintained that Aya Biran has never been officially granted custody over Eitan, who wants to remain in Israel.

“The boy expresses his clear desire to stay in Israel with his mother’s family, and his voice is not being heard,” the Peleg family wrote in their appeal, claiming Aya was victimizing Eitan all over again. “We trust the justice system to do its job faithfully and decide according to his own good.”

In response to the appeal, the Biran family said in a statement that the original Tel Aviv family court ruling “speaks for itself.”

“We believe the district court will reject the appeal and that Eitan will be allowed to return to his family, to his school and to the therapeutic frameworks from which he was abducted.”

At the time of the crash, Eitan and his parents, Amit Biran and Tal Peleg, and his younger brother, Tom, had been living in Italy, where Amit Biran was studying medicine.

Shmulik Peleg was questioned by Israeli police in September in connection with the kidnapping allegation, before being conditionally released.

Screen capture from video of Eti Peleg, maternal grandmother of Eitan Biran, October 25, 2021. (Channel 13 News)

Relatives in Italy say Eitan Biran was taken without their knowledge while the relatives in Israel insist they were acting in his best interest and deny breaking the law.

Eti Peleg told Channel 13 it was her husband’s idea and she only found out about it a few days after the fact.

“I don’t know if he made a mistake or didn’t make a mistake. I only know that Eitan’s place is in Israel,” she said.

According to the station, Italian police, in cooperation with their Israeli peers, are investigating Eitan’s removal to Israel as a possible kidnapping.

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