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Cable car crash survivor should return to Italian relatives, rules Israeli court

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Wreckage of the cable car near the summit of the Stresa-Mottarone line in the Piedmont region.
Wreckage of the cable car near the summit of the Stresa-Mottarone line in the Piedmont region.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Luca Bruno

A boy who survived a cable car crash in Italy should be returned to his relatives there, an Israeli court has ruled.

Six-year-old Eitan Biran has been at the centre of a bitter custody battle between his family members in Israeli and Italy.

On Monday, the court in Israel ordered that Biran should return to "the place of his normal residence, which is Italy".

The boy's maternal grandfather, who brought him to Israel against the wishes of his Italian relatives, was also fined 70,000 shekels (€19,000) in expenses and attorney fees.

Biran’s parents and younger sibling were among 14 people who died in May when a cable car crashed into the mountainside in northern Italy.

Eitan's parents -- Amit Biran and Tal Peleg -- had moved to Italy when the boy was one month old and had been living there for several years.

After the incident, Eitan Biran was driven to Switzerland by his grandfather Shmulik Peleg and later flown to Israel in September.

The boy's paternal relatives say he was taken without their knowledge and they had filed a legal complaint in Italy seeking his return.

AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov
Shmulik Peleg -- the boy's maternal grandfather -- pictured at the Tel Aviv court.AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov

After Biran was released from a Turin hospital following weeks of treatment, an Italian juvenile court ruled the child would live with a paternal aunt near Pavia.

The Peleg family has defended his decision to spirit the boy away, saying it was in the child’s best interests.

But the Tel Aviv family court ruled on Monday that his relocation to Israel was unlawful and violated the guardianship rights of his aunt.

"There is supreme importance in focusing on the medical and emotional condition of the minor and giving him the support, treatment and embrace he needs following the tragedy that befell him and his family," said Judge Iris Ilotovich-Segal.

The Peleg family said the decision doesn’t address their questions concerning the "well-being and future of the child." The families have seven days to appeal the court's ruling, their lawyers said.

In a statement, they said they would "continue to fight in all ways possible for Eitan’s benefit, welfare and rights to grow up in Israel as his parents hoped".

But Biran’s paternal relatives welcomed the ruling in a statement, saying "there are no victors and no vanquished, no winners and no losers".

"All that we ask now is that Eitan returns home quickly, to friends and to school, to his family and especially to the therapeutic and educational frameworks that he needs."

For its part, the Tel Aviv court said it hoped the rift between the families could be mended.