AN orphaned six-year-old who was the only survivor of a horror cable car crash is now at the centre of a bitter custody battle.
Eitan Biran’s aunt has even accused her sister-in-law of “kidnap” and holding him “hostage” after they both staked a claim to be his guardian.
Eitan lost his mother Tal, 26, father Amit, 30, two-year-old brother Tom and great-grandparents Itshak and Barbara Cohen in the disaster on May 23.
He was the only one of 15 on board to survive after a cable snapped sending the gondola tumbling down Mount Mottarone near Stresa, Italy.
Since leaving hospital in June he has been living with paternal aunt Aya Biran-Nirko near Pavia, northern Italy.
But last week Tal’s sister Gali Peleg revealed she would be taking legal action so her nephew could have a “normal” life in Israel, The Times reports.
She said: “He was abducted by relatives who don’t know him at all.
“She [Biran-Nirko] was not close to him in any way. The family there won’t take him to a park or out to eat, things we have done so he feels he has a family.”
Gali said her sister valued the family’s Jewish and Israeli identity and she fears it will be eroded if the boy grows up in Italy.
Speaking at a press conference alongside a lawyer, she claimed she had been allowed to see Eitan only briefly, and he “breaks into tears” when she leaves.
She added: “In a few years he’ll look back and see where he grew up and who his parents were, and it’s important to me that he sees that we were always there for him.
“He already lost one family and does not need to lose another.”
Gali’s husband Ron Peri said Eitan’s parents had not wanted him to grow up in Italy.
Ron claimed: “He’s held hostage. They have taken control of his body, his mind, his soul, to keep him in Italy.”
Lawyers for Amit’s sister Aya Biran-Nirko, a doctor and mum of two, said they were shocked by the “surreal” comments.
They added: “We sincerely cannot understand the reason for such acrimony and falsehood.”
Tal and Amit were living in Italy with their children while he finished his medicine degree.
Eitan is said to speak good Italian and has been attending a local school in Pavia run by Roman Catholic nuns.
Neighbours said it had been Eitan’s parents who chose the Catholic school because of its good reputation.
“People who live far from their own country think of going back from time to time but their intention was to stay here in Pavia,” Piero Monni told La Repubblica.
Eitan suffered injuries to his skull, chest, and abdomen in the Mottarone tragedy but survived after his father shielded him with his own body.
When he woke from his coma days later he asked his aunt at his bedside: “Where’s mummy? Where are my parents?”
The family had been heading to a beauty spot above Lake Maggiore when the cable car suddenly plunged near the top of the 4,900ft mountain.
Other victims included five-year-old Mattia Zorlon and his parents, and newly engaged couple Alessandro Merlo and Silvia Malnati.
Investigators say the pull cable snapped, and the safety brake that would have stopped it from falling had been disabled.
Three managers face a criminal investigation into alleged negligence.
The service had only recently reopened after a coronavirus lockdown, and had suffered a malfunction weeks earlier.
Prosecutors claim the managers admit inserting a device to block the emergency brake as a way to stop any further breakdowns.