Eitan Biran has lived with his paternal aunt, Aya Biran-Nirko, since he was released from the hospital. However, on Saturday he was brought to Israel against the wishes of other relatives
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The sole survivor of a fatal cable car accident was reportedly kidnapped by his grandfather during a custody battle.
Eitan Biran, whose parents, younger brother and two great-grandparents were killed in the tragedy in northern Italy in May, has lived with his paternal aunt, Aya Biran-Nirko, since he was released from hospital.
On Saturday, however, the six-year-old was taken to Israel against the wishes of other relatives, prompting the Italian authorities to investigate.
According to Italian media, Eitan’s maternal grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, who had moved to Italy after the tragic crash and had the right to visit, took the child with him on Saturday morning but did not bring them home at 6:30 p.m. as agreed.
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Peleg, who had the child’s Israeli passport, allegedly drove Eitan to Lugano, Switzerland, and took the boy with him in a private jet from Italy. Corriere della Sera reported.
The newspaper reports that the grandfather made the decision because he believed the boy was in “poor mental and physical condition”.
His worried aunt raised the alarm when the child did not come home and the police opened an investigation.
Diplomatic sources then confirmed that the boy and his grandfather had arrived in Israel.
Eitan’s aunt said she contacted Peleg repeatedly and he initially didn’t respond before allegedly telling her, “Eitan’s returned home.”
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Armando Simbari, a lawyer representing Biran-Nirko, told Corriere della Sera: “The news is worrying and a matter of great concern to everyone [Eitan] was torn away from the family he grew up with and the doctors who are still treating his trauma. “
Meanwhile, Peleg, 58, was being investigated by Italian judges on suspicion of kidnapping.
According to reports in Israel, government officials today condemned the boy’s return as a kidnapping and could send the boy back to Italy.
Eitan’s maternal aunt, Gali Peleg, applied for adoption in August, claiming the boy was being held hostage in Italy.
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Yesterday she told Israeli radio 103FM: “We did not kidnap Eitan … we took him home.”
The child’s paternal aunt described the news as “another tragedy for Eitan,” according to Corriere della Sera.
She also expressed concern for the boy’s health, as he has been supported by psychologists and therapists since the tragedy in Italy.
Eitan has been embroiled in a bitter custody battle since the May 23 tragedy.
The crash killed his mother Tal (26), his father Amit (30), two-year-old brother Tom and great-grandparents Itshak and Barbara Cohen (82 and 70).
Matteo Gasparini, provincial head of the Italian Alpine Rescue Service, said at the time that there seemed to have been two major problems – the broken cable and the failure of the emergency brake.
The boy was rushed to hospital after suffering multiple fractures in the cable crash tragedy and was released in June.
His father’s sister, Aya Biran-Nirko, who lives in Italy, was appointed the boy’s legal guardian by Italian judges.
However, the decision was challenged by his mother’s family, who requested that he be transferred to Israel before Peleg allegedly took him away over the weekend.