A six-year-old boy, who was orphaned in a deadly cable car disaster, has allegedly been kidnapped by his grandfather amid a fierce custody battle.
Eitan Biran was the only survivor when a cable snapped, sending the gondola plummeting down a mountainside in Italy earlier this year.
The horrific accident on May 23 killed 14 people, including Eitan’s parents, younger brother and two great-grandparents.
Boy, 6, flown to Israel “without permission”
Italian officials ruled Eitan could remain with his paternal aunt, Aya Biran-Nirko, in northern Italy after he was released from hospital following weeks of treatment for critical injuries.
The Times reports his relatives claim he was flown to Israel over the weekend “without their permission”.
Aya told reporters on Sunday Eitan's maternal grandfather, Shmulik Peleg, picked him up for an organised day visit and had agreed he would be back by dinner.
But Peleg allegedly fled to Israel with the boy instead, possibly by "private jet".
Aya said Eitan has been undergoing both physical therapy and psychotherapy since the accident and was due to have a follow-up appointment this week.
"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 Israeli boy has been living in Italy and reportedly has both Israeli and Italian passports.
Aya's lawyer, Armando Simbari, told the Times: “This was a real international kidnapping.”
Corriere della Sera reports he also said: “The news is upsetting for everyone and creates a lot of concern.
Family in Israel speaks out
A sister of Eitan's late mum disputes that he was kidnapped.
"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.
She would not reveal exactly where the boy was, but she confirmed that he had arrived in Israel.
She told the radio station the boy "screamed from excitement” and said “'I'm finally in Israel” when he saw his other relatives.
"We are caring for his emotional state and health,” Peleg added.
“Everything we did was only for the good of the boy"
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