Boy who survived gondola crash returns to Italy after custody battle

A six-year-old boy, the sole survivor of an Italian cable car disaster who was kidnapped and taken to Israel by his grandfather, flew back to Italy on Friday night following a nearly three-month custody battle, the boy’s aunt said.

Israel’s Supreme Court this week rejected a request by Eitan Biran’s maternal grandfather to appeal previous court rulings which said the boy must be sent back to his paternal aunt in Italy. It ordered him returned by December 12.

The child, who was born in Israel but moved to Italy with his family when he was one month old, had been living with the aunt since his parents, younger brother and 11 other people died when a gondola plunged to the ground in May in northern Italy.

Eitan “will now return to his normal life routine, with all medical, therapeutic and educational resources, to his neighbourhood friends and to school, to the community where he grew up, and to his beloved cat, Oliver,” his aunt said.

After his Supreme Court appeal was rejected, representatives of the grandfather said the family would continue its struggle legally to bring Eitan to Israel, adding he was being taken “to a foreign land, far from his roots and loving family.”

The grandfather and the aunt cannot be named due to Israeli court restrictions.

In September, while visiting Eitan, his maternal grandfather, without the aunt’s consent, drove him to Switzerland and chartered a private jet onward to Israel, triggering a cross-border custody battle.

The aunt petitioned the Israeli family court for his return to Italy. The court found that the grandfather’s actions amounted to kidnapping under the Hague Convention on the return of abducted children.

There was no immediate comment from his grandfather or his lawyer.

Last week, Cypriot police said they had arrested a man in connection with the alleged kidnap.

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