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UPDATE 3-Israeli court says boy who survived cable car disaster must be returned to Italy

·2 min read

(Adds that the families have seven days to appeal the ruling)

JERUSALEM, Oct 25 (Reuters) - An Israeli court ruled on Monday that a 6-year-old boy, the sole survivor of an Italian cable car disaster and the focus of a cross-border custody battle, must be returned to relatives in Italy after his grandfather took him to Israel.

Eitan Biran had been living with his paternal aunt in Italy after his parents, younger brother and 11 other people died when a gondola plunged https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/least-eight-dead-italian-cable-car-accident-ansa-2021-05-23 to the ground in northern Italy in May.

Last month, while visiting the boy, his maternal grandfather, without the aunt's consent, drove him to Switzerland and chartered a private jet onward to Israel.

The aunt said that, according to the Hague Convention on the return of abducted children, this amounted to kidnapping, and petitioned a family court in Tel Aviv for the child's return.

The court on Monday determined the boy's "regular residence" was in Italy, where he had lived since his parents had moved from Israel when he was about a month old.

It dismissed the grandfather's argument that Israel should be considered his home because his parents had intended to return there.

The Israeli ruling said an Italian court had granted the boy's aunt guardianship rights, enabling her to argue successfully that his transfer to Israel by the grandfather had violated the Hague Convention.

The families have seven days to appeal the court's ruling, their lawyers said.

The boy's maternal family in Israel said it plans to appeal the decision. The court ruling dealt only with the issue of how Eitan was taken out of Italy, and not what was best for his future, they said in a statement.

"The family is determined to continue to fight in all possible ways for the good of Eitan, his wellbeing, and his right to grow up in Israel as his parents wished," they said.

The aunt's lawyers said in a statement that in this case, "there are no winners, there are no losers. There is just Eitan."

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

The Tel Aviv court said it hoped the rift between the families could be mended, and that the "message of his late parents' 'spiritual will' would be for their families to set the right path on which the boy can tread peacefully and safely between them." (Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)

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