Israel grandfather appeals ruling returning child to Italy

The grandfather of a boy whose parents died in an Italian cable car crash appealed Monday the Israeli court ruling returning the child to family in Italy, a spokesman said.

The battle for custody of Eitan Biran, the sole survivor of the May accident that killed 14 people, has captured headlines since his maternal grandfather, Shmulik Peleg, brought him to Israel on a private jet last month. 

Peleg has insisted that he drove Eitan from Italy to Switzerland before jetting him back to Israel — instead of returning him to paternal aunt Aya Biran, who lives in northern Italy — because Eitan’s late parents wanted him to be raised in the Jewish state.

But Peleg has become the subject of a kidnapping probe by Italian prosecutors, and Israeli police questioned him over those allegations last month.

A family court in Tel Aviv on October 25 recognised an Italian judgement that established Biran as a legitimate guardian, and said Peleg had “unlawfully” removed the boy from his aunt’s care.

The court “ordered the return of the minor to his usual place of residence in Italy”.

A spokesman for Peleg said he filed an appeal Monday to the district court, saying the family tribunal “did not address the tragic circumstances at hand” and “ignored the unilateral actions of (Biran), who allegedly acted in deceit behind the backs of the grieving Peleg family to win custody”.

Peleg also accused Biran of not upholding the temporary custody arrangements agreed after the child was brought to Israel.

“There is no reason that the debate over where Eitan spends his life” should take place while he is in Italy, the spokesman said in a statement, adding that most family members from both sides lived in Israel.

Eitan and his parents, Amit Biran and Tal Peleg, had been living in Italy, where Amit Biran was studying medicine, together with their other child, Tom, who also died in the crash.

Eitan suffered severe chest and abdominal injuries and spent a week in intensive care after the May accident, that occurred when the cable snapped on the aerial tram bringing weekend visitors to the top of the Piedmont region’s Mottarone mountain.

The accident was one of Italy’s worst in over two decades.