A BOY, six, who was orphaned in a cable car crash has allegedly been ‘kidnapped’ by his grandad and flown to Israel in a private jet after a fierce custody battle.
Eitan Biran’s paternal relatives in Italy claim the child was flown without their permission to Israel over the weekend.
The boy was the only one of 15 on board to survive after a cable snapped, sending the gondola tumbling down Mount Mottarone near Stresa, Italy.
Eitan lost his mum Tal, 26, dad Amit, 30, two-year-old brother Tom and great-grandparents Itshak and Barbara Cohen in the disaster on May 23.
After the boy was released from a Turin hospital following weeks of treatment for critical injuries, Italian juvenile court officials ruled that the child could remain with a paternal aunt near Pavia, in northern Italy.
Since leaving hospital in June, he has been living with his aunt Aya Biran-Nirko, so he can also spend time with a six-year-old cousin, whom he is close to.
But Aya told reporters on Sunday that on Saturday, Eitan’s maternal grandfather, Shmulik Peleg, took the boy on an agreed day visit, then flew him without permission to Israel, possibly by “private jet”.
She said the boy has been undergoing both physical therapy and psychotherapy since his hospital release.
Eitan was due to have follow-up medical visits this week, including one in Turin.
“His bed is empty, his toys and clothes were left behind.
“His new desk, school backpack, notebooks, pencil case and books were ready for his first day of class on Monday,” the distraught woman said.
The aunt contended that when the maternal grandfather had come to pick him up for an arranged visit on Saturday morning, it was agreed that the boy would be back by dinner.
But after Eitan didn’t return, his concerned Italian aunt filed a police report on Saturday night, Italian news reports said.
The boy reportedly has both Israeli and Italian passports.
This was a real international kidnapping.
Lawyer Armando Simbari
Aya’s lawyer, Armando Simbari, told Corriere della Sera: “The news is upsetting for everyone and creates a lot of concern.
“He [Eitan] was snatched from the family he grew up with, and from the doctors still treating his trauma.”
The Times reports that the lawyer alleged: “This was a real international kidnapping.
“[Aya] Biran-Nirko was given guardianship by two courts who wanted Eitan to have continuity in his life.”
He added: “After the aggressive demands by the Pelegs, the courts here ordered the grandfather to hand over Eitan’s Italian passport by August 30, which he didn’t. They alerted frontier authorities to ensure he didn’t try and leave with Eitan.
“The fact he got through makes us think he used a private jet. Now we hope international treaties with Israel can get him back.”
He pointed out that the boy was still undergoing therapy after the loss of his parents “so this just adds to the trauma”.
‘NOT AN ABDUCTION’
But a sister of Eitan’s late mum denied that the boy was snatched away from Italy.
“We did not abduct Eitan,” Gali Peleg told radio station 103 FM in Israel.
“We will not use that word. What happened is that we brought Eitan home,” she added.
Gali Peleg would not reveal exactly where the boy was, but she confirmed that he had arrived on Saturday.
She said: “We are caring for his emotional state and health.”
The aunt in Israel also told the radio station the boy “screamed from excitement when he saw us. He said, ‘I’m finally in Israel’.”
The aunt added that “everything we did was only for the good of the boy”.
Pavia prosecutors’ offices were closed on Sunday.
I hope the Israeli and Italian authorities will work together to ensure his return home to Italy.
Aya Biran-Nirko, Eitan Biran’s aunt
Investigators couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Italian news reports that they were considering opening an investigation into the case.
“I am certain and full of hope that Israeli and Italian authorities will work together to ensure his return home to Italy,” Aya Biran told reporters.
The Corriere della Sera newspaper quoted a paternal uncle, Or Nirko, as saying on Saturday that the Pelegs had the boy’s Israeli passport and had failed to give it to the paternal relatives despite an Italian court order that they do so by August 30.
Or was also quoted saying that the boy’s maternal grandparents had contended that if he stayed in Italy, “Eitan would have grown up without ties to his (Israeli) identity”.
According to the paternal relatives, the maternal family had challenged in Italian courts the custody arrangement that let Eitan live with Aya, who is a doctor with her own children.
In August, the Sun Online reported that his Aunt Gali – who also claimed to be Eitan’s guardian – had accused Aya of “kidnap”.
Tal’s sister Gali warned last month that she would be taking legal action so her nephew could have a “normal” life in Israel.
She claimed then: “He was abducted by relatives who don’t know him at all.
“She [Aya Biran-Nirko] was not close to him in any way. The family there won’t take him to a park or out to eat, things we have done so he feels he has a family.”
Gali said her sister valued the family’s Jewish and Israeli identity and she fears it will be eroded if the boy grows up in Italy.
Speaking at a press conference alongside a lawyer, she claimed in August that she had been allowed to see Eitan only briefly, and he was “breaking into tears” when she left.
She added: “In a few years he’ll look back and see where he grew up and who his parents were, and it’s important to me that he sees that we were always there for him.
“He already lost one family and does not need to lose another.”
Gali’s husband Ron Peri said Eitan’s parents had not wanted him to grow up in Italy.
Ron claimed: “He’s held hostage. They have taken control of his body, his mind, his soul, to keep him in Italy.”
Tal and Amit were living in Italy with their children while he finished his medicine degree.
Eitan is said to speak good Italian and had been attending a local school in Pavia run by Roman Catholic nuns.
Eitan suffered injuries to his skull, chest, and abdomen in the Mottarone tragedy but survived after his father shielded him with his own body.
When he woke from his coma days later he asked his aunt at his bedside: “Where’s mummy? Where are my parents?”
The family had been heading to a beauty spot above Lake Maggiore when the cable car suddenly plunged near the top of the 4,900ft mountain.