Accomplice in Eitan Biran kidnap from Italy arrested in Cyprus

Gabriel Abutbul Alon is accused of helping Shmuel Peleg kidnap Eitan Biran from Italy.

 Eitan Biran's grandfather arrives at Tel Aviv court for custody hearing, September 23, 2021 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Eitan Biran's grandfather arrives at Tel Aviv court for custody hearing, September 23, 2021
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

A man has been arrested in Cyprus in connection with the alleged kidnapping of an Israeli boy who was the only survivor of a cable car disaster in Italy in May, police said, after Italian authorities issued an international warrant for him.

Italian prosecutors believe Gabriel Abutbul Alon helped the grandfather of six-year-old Eitan Biran to take the boy back to Israel in September without the consent of the paternal aunt he was living with.

The boy's parents, younger brother and 11 other people died in the cable car crash in northern Italy.

Alon and Eitan's grandfather Shmuel Peleg are accused of having driven the boy from Italy to Switzerland, where they chartered a private jet onward to Israel.

"The arrest occurred yesterday in Limassol ... on an Interpol warrant," a Cyprus police source said.

 A crashed cable car is seen after it collapsed in Stresa, near Lake Maggiore, Italy May 23, 2021. (credit: ALPINE RESCUE SERVICE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) A crashed cable car is seen after it collapsed in Stresa, near Lake Maggiore, Italy May 23, 2021. (credit: ALPINE RESCUE SERVICE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Alon was taken on Friday to a district court, which said it would decide on Monday whether he should remain in custody. A lawyer for Alon could not be immediately reached for comment.

Shmuel Peleg's decision to take the boy to Israel triggered a cross-border custody battle between him and the paternal aunt.

An Israeli tribunal upheld a petition to send him back to Italy, but its top court has halted procedures as it reviews a request to appeal against the decision.

The prosecutor's office in the Italian city of Pavia was not immediately available to comment.