The battle for Mosul is in its final days, with Iraqi army units forcing Isis fighters back into a shrinking rectangle in the Old City. Desperate to hold onto their territory, the jihadists are sending out more and more suicide bombers as they fight to the death in their doomed last stand.

Thousands of residents are believed to be trapped in the area with little food, water or medicine, and are effectively being used as human shields. "Our problem is the families. They are using them as human shields. Some carry children in their arms," said Ali Adnan Ali, a police officer. The residents who have managed to escape through alleyways near the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, which Isis fighters blew up, are often wounded, thirsty and exhausted.

Harrowing photos show dust-covered families carrying injured relatives across the piles of rubble and twisted metal that block the city's narrow streets, and Iraqi forces rescuing a little boy whose family had been killed in the fighting.

With its territory shrinking fast, the group has stepped up suicide attacks, using female suicide bombers hidden among civilians with instructions to blow themselves up the moment they reach soldiers. Lt Col Salam Hussein, of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces, said seven women blew themselves up on Monday (3 July) alone. "Thank god our units stopped these women suicide bombers. Some women exploded themselves on fleeing families. This is an evil and cowardly attempt by terrorists to inflict the greatest losses on civilians and security forces."

On Sunday, a male suicide bomber dressed in a woman's veil killed 14 people and wounded 13 others in a displacement camp west of the capital Baghdad known as Kilo 60. Isis claimed responsibility.

As the streets in this area are too narrow for tanks and armoured vehicles, Iraqi forces are advancing on foot, house by house, room by room, inch by inch. Snipers are a constant threat, so troops move through holes in walls inside the abandoned buildings. Out on open ground, they hope to outrun the sniper.

The number of Isis fighters in Mosul has dwindled from thousands at the start of the government offensive more than eight months ago to a couple of hundred now, according to the Iraqi military.