JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a freeze on returning a 6-year-old boy who survived a cable car crash in Italy to his relatives there until it decides whether to hear an appeal by family members in Israel.
Eitan Biran’s parents and younger sibling were among 14 people killed in May when a cable car slammed into a mountainside in northern Italy. His maternal grandparents in Israel and his paternal relatives in Italy are locked in a bitter custody battle over him.
Ronen Dlayahu, the attorney representing Eitan’s maternal grandfather, confirmed the court ruling issued late Wednesday.
The court is expected to decide next week whether it will hear the appeal and ordered a stay on returning Biran to Italy.
Last month, an Israeli court ordered the boy to be returned to his relatives in Italy, where he was living with his parents before the crash, saying that was “the place of his normal residence.” It also ordered his grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, who had brought him to Israel against the wishes of his family members in Italy, to pay around $20,000 in expenses and attorney fees.
An appeals court then upheld that decision.
Eitan’s paternal relatives say he was taken without their knowledge and they had filed a legal complaint in Italy seeking his return. Earlier this month an Italian judge issued an international arrest warrant for Peleg.
Peleg has defended his decision to take Eitan to Israel, saying it was in his grandson’s best interest. He drove him from Italy to Switzerland without the other relatives’ knowledge before flying him to Israel aboard a private jet.
After his release from a Turin hospital following weeks of treatment, Italian juvenile court officials ruled Eitan would live with a paternal aunt, Aya Biran, near Pavia, in northern Italy.