Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorist attacks, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying Tuesday, in her first remarks at the State Department. Reuters quoted her as telling press, "The [Palestinian] rocket barrages which are getting closer and closer to populated areas [in Israel] cannot go unanswered." "It is regrettable that the Hamas leadership apparently believes that it is in their interest to provoke the right of self-defense instead of building a better future for the people of Gaza," she said. Speaking of a shaky, temporary cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the secretary of state went on to say that the US aimed for a sustainable cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, and that the Obama administration was troubled by civilian casualties on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides. "The United States is currently the single largest contributor to Palestinian aid and we will be adding even more because we believe that it's important to help those who have been damaged and are suffering," she was quoted as saying. She also said that US President Barack Obama's intent to change the direction of US foreign policy gives Iran a "clear opportunity" to engage more productively on nuclear and other issues. Clinton said Obama's first days in office have made it clear that a more open Iranian approach to the international community could benefit Iran. She said this was reflected in statements Obama made in an interview Monday with an Arab TV network. "There is a clear opportunity for the Iranians, as the president expressed in his interview, to demonstrate some willingness to engage meaningfully with the international community," she said. "Whether or not that hand becomes less clenched is really up to them." She said the administration is undertaking a wide-ranging and comprehensive survey of US policy options toward Iran. "There is just a lot that we are considering that I'm not prepared to discuss," she added. More broadly, Clinton said her initial round of telephone calls with world leaders has yielded positive signs. "There's a great exhalation of breath going on around the world as people express their appreciation for the new direction that's being set and the team that's [been] put together by the president," she said. "In areas of the world that have felt either overlooked or not receiving appropriate attention to the problems they are experiencing, there's a welcoming of the engagement that we are promising," she said. "It's not any kind of repudiation or indictment of the past eight years so much as an excitement and an acceptance of how we are going to be doing business." She dismissed suggestions that Obama's foreign policy team will find it difficult to work together. She said all are determined to find the best way to execute the president's foreign policy objectives. "We have a lot of damage to repair," she said, referring to US foreign relations as they stood when former US president George W. Bush left office January 20.