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Israeli Court Says Boy Who Survived Cable Car Disaster Must Be Returned to Italy

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Aya Biran, the paternal aunt of Eitan Biran, a 6-year-old boy who was the only survivor of an Italian cable car disaster and is now at the centre of a custody battle, looks on after a court hearing in Tel Aviv, Israel, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Corinna Kern

An Israeli court ruled on Monday that a 6-year-old boy, the sole survivor of an Italian cable car disaster and the focus of a cross-border custody battle, must be returned to relatives in Italy after his grandfather took him to Israel.

Eitan Biran had been living with his paternal aunt in Italy after his parents, younger brother and 11 other people died when a gondola plunged to the ground in northern Italy in May.

Last month, while visiting the boy, his maternal grandfather, without the aunt’s consent, drove him to Switzerland and from there chartered a private jet to Israel.

The aunt said that, according to the Hague Convention on the return of abducted children, this amounted to kidnapping and petitioned a family court in Tel Aviv for the child’s return.

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The court on Monday determined that the boy’s “regular residence” was in Italy and that he had lived there since his parents had moved from Israel when he was about a month old.

It dismissed the grandfather’s argument that because his parents had intended to return from Italy, Israel should be considered his home.

The Israeli ruling said an Italian court had granted the boy’s aunt guardianship rights, enabling her to argue successfully that his transfer to Israel by the grandfather had violated the Hague Convention.

The boy’s maternal family in Israel said it plans to appeal the decision. The court ruling dealt only with the issue of how Eitan was taken out of Italy, without considering what was best for his future, they said in a statement.

“Sadly, the options and solutions that were raised regarding the minor’s connection with both families were not fully exhausted,” they said.

“The family is determined to continue to fight in all possible ways for the good of Eitan, his wellbeing, and his right to grow up in Israel as his parents wished.”

In a statement, the aunt’s lawyers said that in this case “there are no winners, there are no losers. There is just Eitan.

“All we ask now is that Eitan return home quickly, to his friends at school, to his family, and especially to the therapeutic and educational frameworks he so desperately needs.”

The Tel Aviv court said it hoped the rift between the families could be mended.

“The boy is the only survivor of the cable car accident, and the message of his late parents’ ‘spiritual will’ would be for their families to set the right path on which the boy can tread peacefully and safely between them,” it said.

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